A Wild Animal Has Been Found–What To Do?

Wild animals are constantly being seen and found by humans; but just because they were found, doesn’t mean that they need help.  Have you found an animal and are unsure if it needs help? Please refer to this flowchart below. There are further resources under the flowchart in case further assistance is needed.


Wildlife Information and Resources

Believe That an Animal is in Need? Food for Thought before Trapping

It is illegal to possess, trap, destroy, or relocate a wild animal  without a permit. If you have found an animal in need of care or have a conflict with a wild animal, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area for help. For a list of licensed rehabilitators in Illinois, visit the Department of Natural Resources website and search by county.

What to do When an Animal Needs Help

fullsizerender-2Injured, sick, and orphaned wild animals will need to be trapped for transport to a licensed rehabilitator. If the animal is small enough or safe to handle, an inexperienced person can use gloves and a towel, blanket, net or box to catch the animal and place it in a secure container. It is important to keep the animal in a warm, dark and quiet place to reduce the stress of capture.


Do not feed the animal. Feeding an injured, sick, or orphaned animal can cause severe and even life-threatening complications. Instead, bring the animal to a rehabilitator as soon as possible so it can be properly examined and treated. If the animal is too large, active or dangerous to handle, call a rehabilitator for help.


Do not approach a wild animal unless you are comfortable doing so, know how to handle it and understand its defenses.  All wild animals can be dangerous- even those that appear harmless or severely debilitated. An animal that bites someone may need to be euthanized for rabies testing, so take proper precautions for the safety of both you and the animal.

Orphaned or Baby Animals

It is NOT true that a wild mother will abandon her babies after they have been touched by humans; she will take them back!

Most baby animals are not actually in need, like many members of the public tend to think. Unless the baby is visually ill or injured, or you saw the mother get killed, you can leave the baby where it is; we assure you that mom is properly taking care of her young!


Mother rabbits only come to the nest twice a day–at dawn and dusk–to feed her babies. The remainder of the time, she is away from the nest to protect her babies by not drawing predators to the nest. If you want to check to see that mom is coming around, you can lay some string, flour, etc. around the nest, and check the next day to see if the string or flour has been disturbed (moved, visible footprints, etc.). If you see that is has been disturbed, mom is still around and taking care of her babies. Another item that you can check for is a milk spot in the babies’ stomachs; if you see a white area (cream-colored, through the skin) in the abdominal area, then you know that mom has been coming around because the babies have been fed recently.

Once the eyes and ears of a young bunny are fully open, the baby is now on their own. If you see a young bunny with fully open eyes and ears that is not ill or injured, you can leave the baby be and do not have to intervene.


Deer are similar to rabbits in that they leave their babies alone in a secluded spot during the day, as to not attract predators. If you find a fawn by itself, fear not! Mom is simply protecting her baby and will be back around nightfall. Unless the baby is injured, leave baby be.


Eggs: If you find bird eggs in an unoccupied nest (any species–waterfowl, passerines, etc.), please leave them be. Birds are highly visual animals, and the babies will imprint on the first thing that they see after hatching. This is extremely problematic because if the first thing that a baby bird sees is anything other than its true mother–for example, a human–the baby will think that it is a human and have improper interactions with humans and its own species for the rest of its life. It will never act like a bird, as it should. So if you ever find eggs, please leave them alone and do not take it upon yourself (or a rehabilitator) to hatch them.

Fledglings: If you find a fledgling out of the nest, this is not always problematic, as the baby may be learning how to fly. As long as baby is not injured, you do not have to intervene. Please refer to the chart from Mass Audubon below to see if you need to intervene or not. No matter what, keep handling, talking, and visibility to a minimum in order to prevent human habituation.


Additional Wildlife Resources

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Living with Illinois Wildlife – IDNR

U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

Tips for Backyard Conservation