What to do with injured, orphaned wildlife

By Janet Carroll | Jul 27, 2012

Spring is the time of year when those who wander outdoors often find injured animals or wildlife babies that appear to be abandoned.

One of the Douglas tree squirrels that came to my feeder looked like he had a stiff neck with its head turned to the left side.  Sometimes he would appear to be sleeping on the bottom of the feeder – not a normal behavior.

I called PAWS, one of our local wildlife rehabilitators.  I asked what to do and their suggestion was to try to catch it in a live trap and bring it in.  Well, I have at least four of these squirrels that I could just as easily catch, so this didn’t seem to be a workable idea.

Another suggestion was to see if I could approach it since it appeared lethargic.  When I got close to the squirrel in the feeder, it raced out of the feeder and ran away.

I am hoping the squirrel got better, as I didn’t see it again.

If you find an animal that is bleeding, vomiting, panting, shivering, has ruffled feathers or fur, has been attacked by a cat or dog, or is lethargic and deformed like my little squirrel, call a wildlife rehabilitation facility.  Here are some that are local:


PAWS Wildlife Center

15305 44th Ave. W., Lynnwood




Sarvey Wildlife Care Center

13106 148th St. N.E., Arlington




2nd Chance Wildlife Care Center

6512 61st Pl. S.E., Snohomish




Both the PAWS and Sarvey websites have specific information on how to catch and contain an injured animal.

If you find a baby animal like a deer or bird, you probably do not need to rescue it. Baby animals are often left alone for hours while their parents gather food. Birds often leave the nest before they have all their feathers.

Carefully observe the animal for several hours and if you note they have not been visited by an adult, then decide whether the animal is orphaned or injured and should undergo the stress of being moved to a safer place or captured and taken to a rehabilitator.

I remember taking a shivering, unmoving baby squirrel to 2nd Chance.  I had both water and food in with the animal in a box on a towel, and most people think that’s the right thing to do.  It’s not.  The box and the towel were good, but not the food and water.

The PAWS website has printable fact sheets on what to do if you find a baby bird or mammal.

The best caregiver of a baby animal is its parents, so think twice or more before rescuing a wild animal.  In nature, animals get injured or sick and die and become part of the food chain.

And finally, no, you can’t keep a wild animal and raise it yourself unless you have a permit.

Janet Carroll is a member of the Mukilteo Wildlife Habitat Project. After two years of getting landowners to certify their yards as wildlife habitat and conducting educational activities, Mukilteo has been certified as a National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitat.

The group continues their commitment to wildlife by creating and enhancing wildlife habitat in Mukilteo and connecting residents with nature. For more information on the project, go to www.mukilteowildlife.org, contact the group at mukilteowildlife@gmail.com or phone 425-514-5979.

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