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What to Do if You Find an Animal in Need of Help
(& What Not to Do!)

Do

Seek help if the animal is injured or visibly unwell, has been caught by a cat, or is a baby that you feel cannot fend for itself - for example, if it has been found on the ground and is not yet fully covered in feathers or fur.

Don't

Contact the RSPB - it is a conservation organisation, not a rescue organisation.

Do

Contact your local wildlife rescue centre for help and advice. You can find a list of wildlife rescue centres in Greenwich & Bexley here. You can also visit www.helpwildlife.co.uk for a directory of wildlife rescue centres across the UK.

Don't

Delay in getting help for an injured, unwell or orphaned animal from a reputable wildlife rescue organisation, as this may greatly reduce their chances of recovery 

Do

Delay in getting help for an injured, unwell or orphaned animal from a reputable wildlife rescue organisation, as this may greatly reduce their chances of recovery. 

Don't

Give any animal cow's milk. The majority of species cannot digest lactose. Cow's milk can cause diarrhea, dehydration, and ultimately, death.

Do

If an unfeathered or partially feathered baby bird has fallen from the nest and is unharmed, do try to place the baby back in their nest. Birds generally don't have a sophisticated sense of smell and won't 'smell' humans on their babies. If you make too much noise and fuss when placing the bird back in the nest however, the parents might get spooked, so be as fast and quiet as you can.

Fully feathered fledgling birds have naturally left the nest so do not need to be returned.

Don't

Release a bird or small animal that has been caught by a cat, even if there are no wounds. All small animals, excluding rabbits, need antibiotic treatment after contact with a cat's saliva, even just as a precaution.​

Do

Observe fox cubs from a distance before interfering with them. Foxes can only move their cubs one at a time, and may even drop a cub if they become startled. The mother is likely to return when it's quiet to retrieve her baby: so observe before taking any action, unless the cub is in immediate danger (in the road for example). If in doubt, seek advice from the Fox Project or another rescue organisation BEFORE you disturb the cub.

Don't

Squirt water directly into any animal's mouth. This can cause them to aspirate water into their lungs and can quickly be fatal. You can rub a small amount of water along the side of a bird's beak with a finger or cotton bud IF there is a long wait for help from a rescue organisation.

Do

If you are certain that an animal is hurt, orphaned or injured, and it is possible to safely handle it, then put it in a secure box or animal carrier, ensuring the container has holes for air. Put the box in a dark, quiet room, safe from dogs and cats, whilst you contact wildlife rescue centres for help.

Don't

Feed an injured or orphaned animal, particularly baby animals. Feeding the wrong thing can cause health problems or can accelerate death. Feeding a cold or dehydrated animal can also accelerate death.

Do

Place a heat pad or hot water bottle wrapped in a towel underneath a sick, orphaned or injured animal. Many baby animals cannot generate their own body heat and will die without an external source of warmth. Heat is also a good treatment for shock, and animals that have been caught by cats or injured will often be suffering from shock.
DO NOT provide a source of heat if the animal has a suspected concussion however - for example, for birds that have flown into windows.

Don't

Handle an orphaned or hurt animal too much. Excessive handling, particularly of small birds and rabbits, can lead to stress, shock and even death. It also may not always be obvious that an animal is stressed - they may appear outwardly calm.

Do

If you are certain the animal is an adult, and it is alert and calm, you can place a small, shallow bowl of water in the box with a tiny pinch of sugar in it whilst you look for help from a rescue centre. Don't put water in the box if the animal is so panicked that it will likely knock it over and make itself wet, as it may then become cold - this is dangerous for an already weak animal.

Don't

Remove a baby bird from the wild if you suspect it might be a fledgling. Fledglings are fully feathered and may spend a few days on the ground or with limited flight after leaving the nest. This is normal. Check out our fledgling photo guide if unsure whether a baby bird is a fledgling or not.

Do

If the animal is too large or too dangerous for you to safely contain it yourself (such as a fox or swan), then stay with the animal and try to keep it in sight whilst you contact the relevant organisations for help.

Don't

Try to keep any wild animal as a pet. You might think that they make a cool or interesting pet, but they belong in the wild, where they can live freely with their own kind. Do what's best for the animal - not what's best for you.

Do

If you are unable to transport an animal to a rescue centre, consider contacting cab firms and asking if they will transport it (if you're willing to pay), or ask friends and family whether they would be willing to transport the animal.

Don't

Leave an animal in distress and report it to a rescue organisation later. Try to either contain the animal in a secure box for it to be collected, or stay with it until help arrives.

Do

Relocate fledgling birds to a safer location with lots of coverage from trees/bushes if you feel the animal is at risk, keeping handling quick and minimal and ensuring you don't move the bird too far away from the area, as its parents will be close by and continuing to feed it.​ 

Don't

Delay getting help. There is often a small window of time to save an animal.​

Do

Be persistent. If you can't reach one rescue organisation or if they're unable to help, don't give up - keep contacting organisations until you find someone who can help.​

Don't

Let your pets mix with the wild animal in case of parasites or anything else infectious being transmitted

Do

Be willing to travel. Rescues cannot always collect and there are a limited number serving the SE London area. An hour-long journey might be an inconvenience to you, but it may mean the difference between life and death for an injured/orphaned animal.

Don't

Just do nothing. If you suspect an animal needs help but are unsure, seek advice from wildlife rescue organisations about what to do next.

Do

If you find an animal out of working hours and cannot get a response from any rescue organisation, keep the animal safely contained in a box overnight, ideally with a source of heat as described above, and try contacting rescues again at 9 AM the next morning.