Firstly, it's important to say, this guidance relates to small, non-dangerous animals only. Please do not ever attempt to capture adult Deer, Badgers, Foxes, Otters, Swans, Geese, large Birds of Prey, or Herons yourself as these animals can cause serious injury. Please also do not free animals which are trapped in fencing or netting without guidance from a rescue. It's impossible to cover every species and scenario here so, if you need further guidance, please contact our helpdesk.
Before you capture any animal, have something to contain it in ready. In most cases, a large cardboard box lined with a towel is ideal.
If you're trying to help a bird which can still fly, you can try setting a makeshift 'trap' to catch it with. There's a diagram on how to do this at bit.ly/hwbirdcatch
An adult bird which cannot fly is likely to still try to run away from you. Try to 'herd' them into a corner or against a wall to reduce the directions in which they can run. If they're near a road or other hazard, put yourself between them and the hazard so they don't run towards it to escape you. Similarly, if you're trying to catch waterfowl, put yourself between them and the water so they can't escape on to it. If possible, have others help you to cover as many of the escape routes as possible.
Most small birds can be handled without risk of injury to the handler but many people who contact us are scared to handle a bird for fear of hurting them. It's helpful for both handler and bird to place a towel over the bird in order to contain the wings, reduce the friction between hands and feathers, and help to keep the bird calm. Hold the wings against the bird's body and try to avoid the bird flapping as this will stress it and can cause feather loss.
If you want to avoid touching the bird, you can try placing a cat carrier or cardboard box on its side up against a fence or other barrier and gently herding the bird into it.
Always get the bird into a box as quickly as possible and keep the beak away from your face. Avoid contact with the feet of birds of prey too as they have very sharp talons.
Before attempting to capture a bat, please note the following important information
It is illegal to handle a bat unless to rescue it from danger or help a sick or injured bat.
Although very rare, some bats in the UK have been found to carry rabies.
Never try to capture a bat in mid flight. You’re unlikely to succeed but if you do you may injure the bat.
In light of the above information, we recommend that you contact a licensed bat carer before touching the bat where possible. We list many on our website or you can also contact the Bat Conservation Trust directly.
If the bat is in immediate danger and you need to move it, pick it up using light gloves or a tea towel. In truth they don’t often bite and the smaller species would struggle to break your skin if they did anyway. But this helps to protect you from any rabies risk and is gentler for the bat.
As a hedgehog's usual defence is to keep still and curl up, they shouldn't prove too difficult to capture. It is best to pick them up using thick gloves or a towel to protect you from their spines.
Squirrels and small rodents
Don’t be fooled by the small stature of rodents. Even a tiny mouse can give you a surprisingly painful bite and a squirrel can cause significant injury. Whilst the ability of rats and mice to carry and spread disease is grossly exaggerated, it is sensible to avoid being bitten by them, so handle with care using gloves or a thick towel.
Cover the animal with a towel and try to “shuffle” it gently into a box turned on its side. That way you don’t need to actually pick the animal up. If this isn’t possible or the casualty has injuries which doing this may make worse, use the towel to ensure the animal cannot see your hands before picking it up. 'Scooping' with both hands rather than grabbing with one will cause less stress but cup your hands around the animal as you do so they don't jump forward out of your hands and risk falling and hurting themselves.
Once you've got the animal contained, your next step will be finding a wildlife rescue.