Finding a wild animal which is sick, injured or at risk can be a stressful experience. There is lots of conflicting information around and sometimes it can be hard to get hold of someone or know who to listen to. HelpWildlife.co.uk is here to help. This article will talk you through what to do and signpost you to the advice and help you need.

Step 1: Ascertain whether the animal needs help.

There is lots of advice on our website to help you decide when it is appropriate to intervene. Just go to helpwildlife.co.uk/sick-or-injured-wildlife

If you remain unsure or need bespoke advice there are details of how to contact our helpdesk and some telephone advice lines at helpwildlife.co.uk/help

Step 2: Capture the animal

If you establish that the animal needs help, it is extremely important that it is contained ASAP so that it cannot wander off or get attacked by predators. There is advice on this step at bit.ly/HWCapture

Step 3: Seek help from a wildlife rescue

We strongly recommend seeking help from one of the specialist wildlife rescues in our directory rather than trying to care for it yourself, or calling general/domestic animal organisations such as vets or the RSPCA. We explain why in more detail at helpwildlife.co.uk/care-options

You can see details of wildlife rescues in your area by putting your location into the search facility at helpwildlife.co.uk/map

NB: Always telephone when seeking help rather than sending Facebook messages, emails etc. as rescues may not have time to check electronic messages very often. Please be aware that most rescues are run by a small number of volunteers and there is unlikely to be a receptionist waiting to take your call. If you don’t get an immediate answer it’s likely that they are busy caring for other animals. Please leave a message or send a follow up text, making sure to include your phone number and details of the animal you need help with, and wait for them to call back.

Please also be aware that most wildlife rescues are run entirely by volunteers and have very limited resources. They are unlikely to be able to collect the casualty from you. Visit https://bit.ly/HWDrive for resources to help you get the animal to rescue if you don't drive.

Step 4: Keep the animal safe while you wait for help

  • contain the animal and bring it inside. Left outside, they could get too hot, too cold, rained on, attacked by predators, or they could wander off and miss out on being helped – we see this every day and it’s heart-breaking. Ensure the box is secure and the casualty cannot escape, and place the box in a warm, quiet area of your house away from kids, pets and TV noise. The bathroom or airing cupboard work well but even a shed or garage is better than outside.
  • don’t offer anything to eat or drink. This may seem counter-intuitive but feeding an animal which is cold, dehydrated, or in shock can actually cause fatal complications. If the animal is in a quiet, dark place, it will usually sleep and not need to eat or drink. We/a wildlife rescue can advise you on any exceptions to this but always check with an expert first.
  • keep the animal warm. For a bright, active adult, just being inside in a warm room should suffice. But babies, any animal which has gotten wet, or animals which have experienced a trauma such as being caught by a cat, or being hit by a car, are likely to need supplemental heat. Make up a hot water bottle, wrap it in a towel, and place it at one end of the box the animal is in. Make sure that the animal can move away from the heat if it needs to and monitor it for signs of overheating (babies may feel hot to touch, adults may pant or spread themselves out flat).

Step 5: If you can’t find help

In an ideal world, when you find a wildlife casualty, you call a wildlife rescue, get through to them immediately and drop the animal off within the hour for assessment and care. But wildlife rescues are struggling – there aren’t enough of them, funding is scarce, and it’s usually the same over-worked volunteer answering the phone as is trying to take care of all the animals.

You’ll likely need to call several rescues, leave messages if you don’t get an answer straight away, and wait for them to call you back. If you don’t get a call back within a couple of hours or if the rescues say they’re not able to help, get in touch with us and we will provide you with further help.

If you haven’t already done so, submit a request for help via our helpdesk –helpwildlife.co.uk/contact-us/helpdesk (if you have done so already, reply to the message chain and give us an update on how things are going). Our helpdesk volunteers have access to a backup list of small volume rescues which don’t appear in the initial directory search so they can look for other rescue options for you.

The helpdesk works best when you keep in touch, coming back to us to let us know the results of the calls you make so we can advise further and look for other options. Our volunteers are tenacious and they care passionately – once you’ve contacted us we are invested in that animal and we will not rest until they get the help they need. Don’t give up! Never release the animal back outside once it has been determined to need help. If we think wildlife rescue options have been exhausted and/or seeking help from a vet or the RSPCA is appropriate we’ll let you know but otherwise please keep in touch with our volunteers and let them help you to help your casualty.