Before rescuing a wild animal, assess the situation and put your safety and the safety of others first. Call the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center at 540-837-9000 for advice.
There are some species of wild animals you should not try to rescue without help. Raccoons, foxes, groundhogs, and skunks can carry rabies, and can be aggressive when handled and/or cornered. The adults of these species are able to bite through leather gloves. Please call us for help before rescuing these species. Bats can sometimes carry rabies, but have small teeth so they cannot bite through leather gloves. Care should be taken when trying to capture them because their wings are fragile.
Hawks, owls, and eagles can injure with their talons and beaks. Please call for advice on how to rescue these species.
If you feel you can rescue the animal safely, try to put the animal in a cardboard box, or other sturdy container, keep it covered, and place it in a warm, dark, quiet place away from people and pets. Keep noise levels low, and do not handle, watch or disturb the animal because wild animals are frightened of people and stressed by those actions. Please do not offer the animal anything to eat or drink until you have spoken to the BRWC hotline staff at 540-837-9000. Trying to feed or give water to an injured or malnourished animal can do more harm than good.
How can you tell if an animal needs to be rescued?
Sometimes it is obvious an animal needs help, but sometimes it is not. If the animal cannot flee, or has obvious wounds, it needs to be rescued.
There is an exception for some very young animals. Young birds that have just fledged from the nest are frequently found on the ground and appear unable to fly.
Fledgling birds have shorter wing and tail feathers than adults, and if healthy, will usually hop away or fly short distances close to the ground. Their parents are usually still caring for them. These birds are best left with their parents because there are things they need to learn from their parents that we can't teach them. Keep pets and people out of the area for a few days and let them grow up undisturbed. If you are unsure whether or not a bird is a fledgling, please call the BRWC hotline to talk through the situation with our staff.
Another exception is young cottontails. They leave their nest at a very young age and small size, and they are not very fast. If their ears are upright, their fur is about 1/4 inch long and they are large enough to fill the palm of your hand, they are old enough to be on their own. If a pet has had the cottontail in it’s mouth there may be unseen injuries. Please contact the BRWC hotline for advice.
Young fawns will be left alone on the ground for long periods of time while their mothers find food. They will not run away if approached, and will even let a person pick them up. Leave the area and the mother will return. Regulations set by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries do not allow the rehabilitation of deer in the following counties: Clarke, Frederick, Warren, and Shenandoah. Deer may not be moved into or out of these counties, and there is no rehabilitation for adult deer in Virginia. All deer are considered adults after December 31st until there are new fawns the following spring.
Additional online information about wildlife emergencies is available HERE. Please note the link will take you to the Toronto Wildlife Centre. Follow the question links for basic information on when and how to rescue wildlife.
Need More Advice about a Wildlife Issue or Concern, or a Wildlife Emergency?
Please call the BRWC hotline at 540-837-9000.