Hotline: 805-543-9453 (WILD)

You Found an Orphaned or Injured Baby Wild Animal?

How to tell if baby animals are orphaned, injured, or perfectly fine and what to do if they need help

It's common to see baby wild animals outside during spring, as a new generation makes its way into the world. Baby wild animals might seem like they need our help, but unless the animal is truly orphaned or injured, there is no need to rescue it. These tips can help you decide whether to take action. 

Signs that a wild animal needs help

  • Presented by a cat or dog
  • Evidence of bleeding
  • An apparent or obvious broken limb
  • Featherless or nearly featherless and on the ground
  • Shivering
  • A dead parent nearby
  • Crying and wandering all day long

If you see any of these signs, contact Pacific Wildlife Care, the only licensed wildlife rehabilitation organization in San Luis Obispo County.  If possible, safely capture and transport the animal to their Rehabilitation Center for treatment.

If the animal needs our help, call the Pacific Wildlife Care Hotline for advice and assistance 805-543-9453 (WILD)

Tips for birds, rabbits, squirrels and other species

Determining whether an animal is orphaned and needs your help depends on age, species and behavior. Babies of some species are left alone all day and rely on camouflage for protection, while others are tightly supervised by their parent(s). Read on for descriptions of what’s normal for each species.

Capturing and transporting the animal

Never handle an adult animal without first consulting with a Pacific Wildlife Care representative. Even small animals can injure you. Once you've contacted someone who can help, describe the animal and his physical condition as accurately as possible.

Unless you are told otherwise, here's how you can make an animal more comfortable for transport and/or while you're waiting for help to arrive.

  1. Put the animal in a safe container. For most songbirds, a brown paper bag is fine for transport. For larger birds or other animals, use a cardboard box or similar container. First, punch holes for air (not while the animal is in the box!) from the inside out and line the box with an old T-shirt or other soft cloth. Then put the animal in the box.
  2. Put on thick gloves and cover the animal with a towel or pillowcase as you scoop him up gently and place him in the container.
  3. Do not give the animal food or water. It could be the wrong food and cause him to choke, trigger serious digestive problems or cause aspiration pneumonia. Many injured animals are in shock, and force-feeding can kill them.
  4. Place the container in a warm, dark, quiet place—away from pets, children and all noise (including the TV and the radio)—until you can transport the animal. Keep the container away from direct sunlight, air conditioning or heat.
  5. Transport the animal as soon as possible to the PWC Rehabilitation Center (Directions). Leave the radio off and keep talking to a minimum. Because wild animals aren’t accustomed to our voices, they can become very stressed by our noises. If they’re injured or orphaned, they’re already in a compromised condition. Keep their world dark and quiet to lower their stress level and help keep them alive.