Found an Animal?
What do I do if I see a wild animal that appears to be sick, injured, or orphaned?
Bring the animal to the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA’s main Wildlife Care Center in Burlingame or, if more convenient, to our adjunct wildlife rehabilitation facility in Palo Alto as quickly as possible. The Burlingame address is 1450 Rollins Road (2nd floor), and the Palo Alto location is 4000 Middlefield Rd., Building V. (Phone numbers for both locations are listed below). Do not give any food, water, or medicine. The wrong food or medicine can often do more harm than good. Additionally, if the animal is too weak it may not swallow properly and could get water in its lungs. Do not attempt to remove fishing line or something that may be caught or tangled around the animal.
The most important thing you can do for the animal is to keep it warm, dark and quiet and transport it to the nearest wildlife rehabilitation center as quickly as possible. Find an appropriately sized box (not so large that the animal will be able to thrash around and possibly injure itself, but not so small that the animal cannot rest comfortably) to contain the animal in. Line the bottom of the box with a soft cloth and make sure that there are small air holes in the box. Place the animal somewhere that is warm, away from human noise and domestic pets until the animal is able to be transported to the local wildlife rehabilitation center. If the animal is cold, the box may be placed on a heating pad set to low.
Use caution. Even very sick or injured animals can react aggressively if they feel threatened. Animals such as hawks or owls have very strong talons that can do serious damage. Do not handle skunks, bats, or foxes with bare hands as they can be aggressive and are rabies vector species.
If you are unable to bring the animal in, please call:
How can I tell if the animal is truly sick, injured, or orphaned?
BABY SONGBIRDS - What many people don’t realize is that most of the baby birds they find on the ground are supposed to be there. If you find a featherless, downy, or incompletely feathered bird it will need your help. If the bird appears uninjured the best chance of survival is if it is returned to the nest. So if possible, gently return it to the nest. If you find a nest on the ground with babies or eggs, tie it back to a nearby tree. The nest can be placed in a little box or margarine tub (with drainage holes) to make it easier to secure. If the baby appears injured or the nest cannot be located, place the bird in a small, covered box lined with tissue; keep it warm, dark and quiet and try to get it to a wildlife center as soon as possible. DO NOT OFFER FOOD OR WATER.
If all goes well, nestlings grow up and become fledglings, which have stumpy tails and are fully feathered – but cannot yet fly. If you find a fledgling hopping on the ground, don’t pick it up. This period of being on the ground is a normal and necessary part of a bird developing the skills of survival. The parents are still around, feeding them, showing them where to look for food, and hiding them under bushes. The best thing you can do is keep your dogs, cats and children away from the area for a few days. If you’ve already picked up the bird, place it back where you found it or under a nearby bush. Of course, there are times when the fledgling does need help, such as when it’s injured or in the middle of a busy street. In that case, place the bird in a small, covered box or paper bag to keep it warm, dark and quiet, and bring it to a wildlife center. Minimum contact reduces stress and increases any animal’s chances of survival. DO NOT OFFER FOOD OR WATER.
WATERBIRDS - The young of ducks, geese and many shorebirds are born with their eyes open and are able to immediately forage on their own. Ducks and geese will often leave their young for several hours; do not pick them up thinking they are abandoned – most times they are not. Obviously, there are situations when these babies are in distress and need to be rescued and you will need to evaluate the situation you find them in.
SQUIRRELS - Just like young birds, young squirrels frequently fall out of their nest and do not always need to be rescued. It is always in the best interest of the squirrel to be raised by its parents. If you find a young squirrel on the ground that appears healthy, place the squirrel in a small box with low sides in the location where you found the squirrel. Put a warm blanket or a hot water bottle in the box to keep the squirrel warm. The mother will not take back a cold baby. Keep all domestic cats and dogs away from the area. Leave the box and observe from a hidden area for 3-4 hours. The mother will not approach if she feels threatened in any way. If after 3-4 hours the mother has not come to collect her young, the squirrel may need to be rescued. Contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center.
If you find a young squirrel on the ground and there are signs of blood, broken bones, or it has been attacked by a domestic cat or dog, contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center. Place the squirrel in a covered box with a towel. Keep it in a warm, dark and quiet place and bring it to a wildlife center as soon as possible. DO NOT OFFER FOOD OR WATER.
If you find a young squirrel on the ground that appears healthy and the nest has been destroyed, the squirrel can still be returned to its mother. Squirrels use two or more nests concurrently throughout the year. Follow the steps above and allow the young squirrel a second chance at being raised in the wild by its mother.
Can I care for a sick, injured, or orphaned animal myself?
No. Rehabilitating wild animals, with rare exceptions, is illegal for members of the public. PHS/SPCA is licensed to care for wildlife through the California Department of Fish & Game and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. More importantly, rehabilitating wildlife is complex.
What happens when I bring in a wild animal?
All animals are given an examination to determine if the animal is sick, injured or orphaned. During the examination we look for the following:
Immediate treatment can include administering fluids and medications, taking x-rays, and processing bloodwork.
The results of our initial analysis determine the following protocol:
Releasing wild animals:
Animals are released in accordance with the California Department of Fish & Game regulations. They are released where they were found, or in an appropriate habitat which meets the conditions required for that species. Unfortunately, we are not able to save every animal – some arrive so badly injured that recovery is not possible. These animals are humanely euthanized. If this happens to the animal you brought to us, please don’t feel like your efforts were useless. Your care allowed an animal to have a quick and painless end, rather than prolonged suffering.
Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion
Coyote Point Shelter