How to help injured or sick wildlife

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We’re blessed in Australia to live alongside such amazing native animals. But unfortunately, it can be common to come across injured or sick wildlife and if this happens, it can be difficult to know what to do. If you find yourself in a situation where you do encounter an injured or sick wild animal, it’s important to be prepared with the basics.

Read on for further advice.

What to do?

If you come across a sick or injured wild animal, the most important thing to do is to contact your nearest veterinarian or wildlife carer organisation as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to do some research beforehand and have the numbers already saved.

It’s important to remember wild animals are not used to being handled, so they will be highly stressed when they come into contact with humans. It is best that you seek expert advice before handling a wild animal so that the expert can guide you through the process. If possible, try to minimise the amount of exposure the injured or sick animal has to people and loud noises.

Remember not to feed or give treatment to the animal unless you have specialist knowledge or training.

What happens next?

When sick, injured or orphaned wild animals are taken into care, they should be assessed by a veterinarian as soon as possible. To be considered for rehabilitation and release, wild animals must be able to recover and reach a stage where they are well enough to seek food and fend for themselves in the habitat from which they were removed. If an animal is suffering from significant pain or distress which cannot be relieved, then a veterinarian may decide that prompt euthanasia is the best course of action.

Not all injured, sick or orphaned wild animals are suitable for rehabilitation and release, and it cannot always be assumed that a released animal will survive in the long-term. Because of this, any decision to release an animal should be made on the basis of a veterinary assessment and the available scientific evidence on the likely success of release.

Injured or abandoned birds

It can be common to discover an injured or abandoned bird. The first step is to check if the bird really is injured or abandoned. In the nesting season, birds who have recently fledged (left the nest) are sometimes found on the ground while their parent(s) are nearby feeding. The bird might look abandoned, but often they aren’t. If the baby is feathered, it’s best to leave the bird alone and watch discreetly from a distance to see if the parent birds return. If the parents don’t appear, call your local wildlife rescue organisation and give them a description of the bird – they will be able to provide you with further advice depending on the species of bird and the location.

If you find a bird who has been injured, or really has been abandoned, you need to keep them safe, quiet, still and warm or cool depending on the weather, while you seek further advice. The best way to do this is to loosely wrap the bird in a tea towel and gently place them in a secure and well-ventilated box. Place the box away from heat, noise, pets, children or other disturbances. It’s important that you do not attempt to feed the bird. Contact your local wildlife rescue organisation who will be able to provide further advice.

By following these tips, you are in the best position to take action when you encounter injured wildlife in order to give the animal the best chance at survival and rehabilitation. The RSPCA greatly appreciates the concern and effort by members of our community to assist wildlife in distress.

To search online for a wildlife rescue group near you, visit the Australian Fauna Care Network at or download the IFAW Wildlife Rescue App. or call the Wildlife Rescue Australia 24-hour call centre on 1300 596 457. The RSPCA Knowledgebase has a list of organisations you can contact depending on your location (which in some states and territories includes the RSPCA).




This piece was originally published in Australian Community Media newspapers