Many of us have been faced with an emergency from a family member and know to call 911 or rush to our local hospital emergency room. Pet owners who have had an emergency know to call their local vet or have the number of an emergency vet handy who will tell us what to do or tell us to come to their office, but what do we do if we have an emergency or injury to a non-domestic animal?
I had one of these cases recently when a young falcon was found on my back patio. My first response was panic, because “What am I going to do with an injured baby hawk?” I had three young girls who didn’t need to see this mess and of course all they wanted to do was come downstairs and see what all my fuss was about, and I didn’t really want to touch it. After a few moments of panic and random web searches, I calmed down and realized I needed to contact our local Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Of course, that baby hawk must have flown into my window and injured itself on a Saturday afternoon when their office was closed. Now, I’m not an expert on birds and I don’t know which ones are endangered nor did I want anyone to think I was hunting without a permit or license. I leave a very long and somewhat panicked voicemail, which I’m sure they’ve saved and played many times for their friends’ amusement, to tell them all about this baby hawk and how we don’t know what to do with it not knowing how he got here with my name, address and contact details.
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Unfortunately, the baby hawk didn’t survive, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission didn’t need to see it or do any testing, so I was able to dispose of it at my convenience.
Often we don’t want to rush at a wild animal, even if it is injured or in distress, as this can cause it to lash out or attack if it feels threatened. These animals are not vaccinated and often carry diseases that are dangerous to us or our pets. In most cases, wild animals should be left alone if found in the wild. Their parents may be nearby or visit to help them recover. It can be disadvantageous for young animals to be cared for by humans early on and then released into the wild without these necessary survival skills.
Here are some tips for common pets in this area:
1. If you find a hatchling or baby bird (young featherless bird) outside a nest, you can try to put it back in the nest. It is a myth that the parent will reject it if touched by a human.
2. If you find a turtle on the road, you can take the opportunity to move it to the side of the road in the direction it was heading.
3. You’ll often see a baby deer alone, but that doesn’t mean it’s an orphan. Only comes to nurse its young a few times a day so as not to attract predators. Unless you know the mother is dead and not coming back, leave the fawn alone.
4. Baby rabbits that can jump on their own should be left alone, but if you find a nest of young rabbits, cover it lightly with materials like grass, fur or leaves. They dislike foreign smells and may cause the parent to abandon their young.
It is illegal to keep a wild animal as a pet. Please contact your local Game and Parks chapter or the Wildlife Commission. They can put you in touch with a rehabilitation center, if necessary or appropriate, or give you instructions on what to do next. Remember, they are wild animals even if they are small, sick, injured or alone and they can attack if they feel threatened and potentially do us more harm than we realize.