What To Do If You Think A Wild Animal Is Hurt
Most of us don’t like seeing animals in pain. Although it's part of the circle of life, we hate to see a small little bird struggling without their mother or an injured squirrel hiding in the bushes. The question is, should we interfere with nature's process, or would we cause more harm than good? If you ever find yourself wanting to help a little wild animal you've discovered in your garden, there are things you can do to help while respecting the cycle of nature.
First and most importantly, DO NOT TOUCH IT. In fact, don't even go near it if you can at all avoid it. Beyond the fact that the animal may be carrying an infectious disease, sick and injured animals are unpredictable and can sometimes lash out spontaneously at the most benign activity out of fear or confusion. Predators often single out the sick or injured members of a group as they'll be easier to catch and kill. Prey animals know this so they are most wary of predators when they are weakest. That raccoon or fox doesn't know you are trying to help. As far as that animal knows you are going to eat it and it's not going to let that happen. You could not only end up getting hurt yourself, but the animal may worsen its own condition while attempting to fight off a perceived threat.
Secondly, you need to check that the animal truly needs your help at all. Some animals may appear helpless but could be perfectly fine. Baby birds may seem abandoned but their parents could be watching them close by. The same goes for baby rabbits and squirrels. Before intervening, make sure if they have a parent nearby. Keep watch over them during the day. If you find a nest of babies, put some natural material, like twigs or leaves, in front of the entrance and check later to see if it was disturbed. If it was; then you know their mother has returned. Featherless birds on the ground will likely need some assistance, but fledglings are usually supervised by parents. Once you've determined that they may actually need your help, you can't just put them in a shoebox and take them in. It's wiser to contact the nearest wildlife rehabilitation center or animal control depending on the situation.
Why can't you take them in yourself? Nature has a way of balancing itself out, and it's often when we humans intervene that things go awry. You may think a nest of baby bunnies is abandoned when in fact their mother might be nearby out of sight. If you take the bunnies in, you'll rob them of their mother and they may not get the necessary nutrition and skills to survive in the wild. Animals could also be carrying diseases like rabies and parasites that you don’t want to let loose in your home and around your pets. It’s always best to let experts handle it. They’ll be able to tell if the animal can be saved or if it’s more merciful to put it down. This is more humane and lets them control, limit, and even potentially stem the spread of disease.
If you truly want your garden to be a safe haven for all kinds of critters, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that they thrive. Provide bird baths, birdhouses, and feeders that can attract local birds; allow some parts of your lawn to grow so bunnies and other small animals can hide; use pesticides as little as possible (Nature has her own pest control in the form of hedgehogs and frogs); if you wish to attract amphibious creatures, you can add a little pond to your garden and allow native plant species to grow there; and make sure you have the numbers for your local vet and wildlife centers; as well as animal control to humanely relocate larger animals that may wander in like coyotes.
It is a sad fact that we can't save every animal we come across. Death is part of nature's cycle, but with a little bit of preparation and consideration for our local environment, we can ensure that wildlife thrives and that you’re able to enjoy watching bunnies and birdies visit your garden for a long time to come.