Before attempting to rescue a potentially injured or orphaned wild animal or calling the CWRS, it is important to be sure that the animal actually needs help. Follow the steps below when you encounter a wild animal that may be injured or orphaned.
1. Observe the Wildlife from a Distance
Ensure that the wild animal is actually injured or orphaned. Watch the wild animal from a safe distance to determine if it is indeed injured or orphaned. It is best to leave a wild animal alone if it is not clearly in any immediate danger.
Is it orphaned/abandoned?
If you are not sure if the animal is orphaned, watch it from a distance so as not to frighten the parents from returning. Check the animal periodically for 24 to 48 hours to see if it is still around. DO NOT touch or remove the young animal unless you are absolutely certain that it is orphaned or in immediate danger. With some species, it is normal for parents to leave their offspring alone for extended periods of time. Many infant mammals are left on their own for extended periods of time while their parents are foraging for food. In many bird species, the offspring outgrow their nest and their parents continue to raise them on ground level. Many species return to their young near dusk and dawn.
A young animal that looks well-fed with bright eyes and clean fur or feathers is probably not orphaned.
Is it injured?
Wild animals might seem hurt if they are not moving. However, this behavior may simply be a natural survival tactic to keep predators away. Keep an eye out for other indicators that an animal is actually injured, such as:
- Obvious wounds, swelling or bleeding
- Dangling limb or wing
- Problems standing or inability to stand
- Trouble holding the head erect
- Difficulty with breathing
- Inability to see or react to stimuli
- Uneven loss of fur or feathers
- Signs of neurological trauma: seizures, walking in circles
- Typically nocturnal animal is active during the daytime
2. Call for Help
When you have determined that a wild animal is truly orphaned or injured, it will need your help. Contact the CWRS (403 239-2488) or the City of Calgary 3-1-1 service for advice on how to proceed.
Occasionally we can send a trained volunteer to help depending on the situation. As a small charity, we do rely on the public to help injured and orphaned wildlife get to us. Alternatively, you may bring the wild animal to a veterinary clinic near you. Click (here) for a list of clinics accepting wildlife on behalf of CWRS. These clinics ensure initial treatment of wildlife and provide the public with several drop-off sites around the city on a 24-hour basis.
3. While Waiting for Help to Arrive
In some cases, you may need to carefully secure the animal and keep it safe while waiting for medical care to increase its chance of survival.
- Keep yourself safe. Injured animals are frightened and may think you are a predator. Use extreme care and caution when approaching any wild animal. If you must handle a wild animal, use protective gear such as eyewear and gloves.
- Keep the patient warm. Gently wrap the animal in a coat, blanket or towel. A cardboard box makes a great holding and carrying case and offers the animal a sense of security.
- Keep the patient calm. Once the wildlife is secured, it is important to keep them calm. Speak quietly, avoid loud sounds and sudden movements and keep them out of bright light.
- If you are not comfortable handling the wild animal, wait for a trained CWRS volunteer. Some animals such as large mammals and birds of prey should only be handled by trained wildlife technicians.
Handling wild animals
It is illegal to care for sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife in Calgary unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. To ensure the safety and health of people and wildlife, members of the public should generally avoid handling wildlife. Wild animals can inflict serious injury and can be carriers of disease and parasites that are transmittable to humans and domestic animals.
You should not attempt to assist an injured or orphaned animal if there is a risk to personal safety or to the safety of others. If you find an orphaned or injured wild animal, call CWRS.
If the animal poses a threat to public health or safety, call the local animal control office or police department for assistance.
For additional Information
Read the FAQs page or download our “Mother Nature Brochure for more helpful tips for when you find an injured wildlife.