What Do I Do If I Find A Bird or Animal?
Don’t Touch: Wait, Watch, Call!
For most people, helping wildlife in distress is a natural first reaction. Indeed if you see a bird or animal that has been hit by a vehicle, attacked by a dog or cat, shot or is obviously suffering call MARS at the following numbers:
Call us before acting at (250) 337-2021 or the emergency line at (250) 897-2257
MARS wildlife experts will assess the situation, establish an action plan and decide whether or not to dispatch a rescue team. Again it is important that you contact MARS before attempting a rescue, you may be putting the animal or bird or even yourself at risk. Our qualified staff tend to 600 emergency situations each year so we’re very experienced and we are very happy to help you.
If you find a baby bird that seems alone and in distress:
The best mother for a baby bird is its own mother, so before you intervene take these steps:
- Watch and Wait for at least an hour from a distance
- Watch and listen for the parents
- Put dogs, cats and curious children inside
- Phone MARS to make sure that this is in fact the best action
The stress of captivity can kill wild birds, so if you find an injured bird:
- Place a towel over the bird or animal
- Put the bird or animal into a cardboard box, NOT a cage
- Close the lid/handle as little as possible
- Put it in a warm, dark, QUIET place
- DO NOT give wildlife food OR water
- Keep children, cats and dogs away
- Phone MARS immediately; a volunteer will call back as soon as possible.
Injured, ill, orphaned or just fine?
Many of the birds and animals we see at MARS are not actually injured, ill, orphaned or abandoned at all. They are happy healthy wildlife who have been picked up by well-meaning people who think they are helping.
It happens every year, mainly between May 1st and early September in what we call Baby Bird and Fawn Season. During this period, MARS is inundated by concerned callers who’ve found a bird or animal in “distress.” It’s our busiest time of the year.
However, many birds found during this period are in the process of “fledging” or leaving the nest and it’s normal for them to be on the ground as they are learn to find food and to fly. In most species, this takes several days. Usually, the parents are nearby or have left for a brief period to find food to bring back to its young.
What’s the difference between a nestling, brancher and fledgling?
The differences are actually pretty straightforward, but each requires a slightly different approach.
Nestlings are baby birds in the initial stages of life. They are usually blind and naked or may have pinfeathers and some fluff and are totally vulnerable. Nestlings will not survive without your help. They will die. The parents will be close by as nestlings need food every 15 minutes or so, all day long, so keep an eye out for them and they should reveal to you where the nest is located. The “healthy” birds can be replaced in the nest, which is probably near where the orphan was found. If the baby is naked, blind and feels cold to the touch, warm it in your cupped hands first. Oh and by the way, it’s an old wives tale that the parents won’t return to the baby once a human has handled it.
Branchers are older feathered baby birds who still can’t fly, but stand or jump up and down precariously on the edge of the nest or a nearby branch hence their name. If the nest is accessible pick them up and place them back in, if it’s not, place them on a nearby branch and then leave the baby bird alone. It is critical that this is done as soon as possible after the baby bird is found. The parents will continue to feed branchers even if they aren’t in the nest.
Fledglings are fully feathered baby birds who can almost fly and are desperate to leave the nest. Being on the ground is a natural event. It doesn’t matter how many times you put them back in the nest they will immediately jump out. So place fledglings in nearby bushes for cover, the parents will feed them and show them how to hunt for food and how to recognize predators.
Also when returning baby birds to nests, you will need to make sure you are putting them back in the right nest! So check the other siblings to see if they are the same age and species. Continue to observe the nest or branch from a distance to ensure the parents have heard the baby’s feeding chirps and answered them. Ask neighbors to keep dogs on a leash for a day or two and keep cats inside.
What to do if you find a fawn:
- Do not assume a lone fawn is abandoned: when the mother is off foraging fawns are often left to remain still and hidden in the grass. The fawn knows to stay still and quiet and is scentless at this age so it difficult for predators to locate it by smell
- Leave the fawn alone and watch from a distance (unless you have sited a dead doe in the area)
- Before assuming a fawn is an orphan, please call MARS at 250-337-2021
- Do not take a fawn home and try to feed it: you could ‘kill it with kindness’
- If you must remove the fawn from where you found it (after checking with MARS), please put it in a warm, dark, quiet place and leave it alone. DO NOT handle it, this can cause extreme stress!
- If you see a mother deer with one fawn crossing the road expect another deer to follow
- SLOW DOWN at marked DEER crossings
What to do if you find a seal pup alone on a beach:
- Do not assume a lone seal pup is abandoned, pups are often left on or near a beach while their mother hunts.
- Leave the animal alone and watch from a distance (unless you have sited a dead adult female in the area). Wild animals are easily stressed so stay back and hidden, if possible. Pups can bite so do not attempt to touch them.
- Before assuming a seal pup is an orphan, please call MARS at 250-337-2021
If the above information does not resolve your situation, again please call MARS at (250) 337-2021 or after hours between 5pm-9am (250) 897-2257
- Nestlings are naked and blind
- They can be returned to the nest
- Warm cold birds with your hands
- Make sure parents attend the nest
- They will die without your help
- Older, feathered but cannot fly
- Need to be returned to their nest
- If no nest, place on a nearby branch
- Parents will continue to feed them
- Watch to see what they do
- Touched chicks are not forsaken
- Fledglings have feathers and short tails
- They can perch, hop and walk
- They are learning to fly
- They should be left alone to practise
- Being on the ground is normal
- Their parents are nearby
- They are aware of predators