What to Do If You Find Sick or Injured Wildlife

Posted 2 Years Ago

Should you happen to stumble across a sick or injured animal in the wild, it’s best to proceed with caution. Resist the urge to rush to its aid. Here's our guide to what to do when you find a sick or injured animal.

Should you happen to stumble across a sick or injured animal in the wild, it’s best to proceed with caution. Resist the urge to rush to its aid. The animal could be diseased, and almost certainly in a state of panic, in which case it could cause injury to you or further harm to itself.

Before approaching the animal, observe its behaviour in order to assess the extent of its injury. Call a nearby vet or wildlife rehabilitator and ask whether or not they can treat the animal. If they are able to, it’s often faster to transport the animal yourself as their nearest officer may be out of the area attending another call.

How to Handle an Injured Animal

  • Do not approach an animal in the wild unless you are sure that you can handle it without risk to yourself or others and take precautions in dangerous locations, such as busy roads
  • Wear gloves, or at the very least try to cover your hands, and keep the animal at a distance from your face
  • Place the animal into a secure, ventilated container, lined with towels or newspaper

Male Veterinary Surgeon Examining Rescued Hedgehog In Surgery


If you are unable to transport the animal yourself or locate a wildlife rehabilitator in close enough proximity to help, please call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 (contain the animal before calling, but only if is safe to do so).

A List of Animals Unable to Be Handled or Transported by the Public:


  • deer
  • seal
  • wild boar
  • otter
  • badger
  • fox
  • snake
  • bird of prey (including owls)
  • swan
  • goose
  • heron
  • gull

If you find an injured animal from the above list, please maintain a safe distance and call the RSPCA.

What to Do if You Come Across a Live Stranded Cetacean:

Whales, dolphins and porpoises do not strand under normal circumstances, therefore, if present on the shore they require special assistance. If you find one of these animals on a beach call either the RSPCA or the BDMLR rescue hotline on 01825 765546 immediately. Maintain a safe distance and don’t touch the animal.

What to Do if You Find a Live Animal in a Trap:

Never try to free an animal from a snare or trap. As well as the risk of injury to both yourself and the animal, freeing the animal could be an offence if it is legally caught. Stay back to avoid causing the animal further stress and inform the RSPCA of your location.

What to Do if You Find a Sick or Injured Grey Squirrel:

A new law on ‘invasive species’ makes it illegal to rehabilitate and release grey squirrels back into the wild. For squirrels with minor injuries, it is recommended to leave them in the wild and for more serious injuries, the best option is humane euthanasia to end the animal’s suffering. If you find a sick or injured grey squirrel, contact your local vet or call the RSPCA.

If they have been trapped accidentally, however, the law still permits freeing the animal and releasing where found.

What to Do if You Find a Dead Bird:

Whenever you come across a dead bird, please report it to the Garden Wildlife Health Project. Garden Wildlife Health surveys diseases affecting British birds and other species.