Pet Topics

Injured or Lost Wildlife - When to Intervene?

by Dr. Ku

As the need for assisting wildlife decreases with the passing of spring (less juvenile birds and bunnies and squirrels to worry about!), I breath a sigh of relief as I realize how poorly we are able to address the issue of injured or lost wildlife in general. While medically things can be done to "reverse the damage" if need be, sometimes intervention can be harmful. Unfortunately, many juvenile animals simply cannot survive the stress of captivity and will die from stress or dehydration within the first 24 hours of leaving their family. Also, picking up a seemingly lost juvenile duckling or rabbit and transporting it home or to the vet, for instance, prevents its mother from retrieving it and raising it on its optimum diet in an optimum environment. For example, a frightened mother rabbit may temporarily "scatter" her babies intending to retrieve them once the danger is past. A bird that has fallen from a nest or is learning to fly, may travel off course but if near the nest will be retrieved as well. Taking time to move a young or lost animal out of harms way and allowing its mother to retrieve it, is usually the best option if available.

Injured wildlife present another issue, particularly when the injuries result from urban consequences such as getting hit by a car, or flying into a window. If the injury is severe, euthanasia is often the most humane approach with recovery time and stress of captivity being serious considerations. If the wildlife is an endangered species, there are more resources available to help rehabilitate these animals as naturally as possible (the California Raptor Center at UC Davis is a good example of this). But if the animal is not an endangered species, the resources are more limited and the chances of a successful outcome are slimmer.

As a veterinarian, I often feel sad when an animal arrives that has poor survival chances and we are unable to devote the volunteer time and energy needed to rehabilitate all that we are presented with. Therefore, I urge us all to be careful before we chose to move an animal, and to determine the need for intervention carefully. If euthanasia is necessary, by all means, bring it to us and we will do so as humanely as possible, free of charge. If the situation is not so cut and dry, a few phone calls may help, and a gift of time and resources may be required to guide a successful recovery.

This past month we have been feeding an injured crow in our courtyard until it can go to its "refuge" adopted home with Officer Ted, a concerned citizen who has elected to provide it sanctuary on his property. Although many may think that saving this crow seems futile, a "Good Samaritan" in another part of Sacramento scooped up this little bird after seeing it hit by a car and brought it to a local veterinary hospital in the north area. As it turned out, a veterinary technician at that hospital intended to nurse the bird to health and keep it in captivity if needed, but wasn't able to follow through with her plans. Aside from that, the bird stopped eating after being in a cage for a few days. That's when we were contacted. Our network of injured bird friends came into play and we agreed to foster the bird outdoors in an enclosed area until the wrap protecting its broken wing could come off, and we could then transfer him over to Officer Ted.

Our little friend went to his new home this week and will hopefully continue to thrive and do well. Although he will never be able to fly as well again after the healing of the injured wing, he can definitely glide low and hop to bushes for cover assuming he has the freedom and food available to flourish. Hopefully the other crows in his area will also accept him as they are surprisingly social animals. This once injured crow was very fortunate that over several months, many people were able to make his release a success. It is a rare treat to witness the dedication that made this possible.