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Injured wildlife: when to intervene or not?

 
pollinator
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Several times now, I have found injured wildlife and been unsure if intervening would help or actually be more stressful to the animal. For example, yesterday, I found a squirrel that had been attacked by the neighbor's cat. It was dragging one leg and having a hard time moving, as well as tilting its head in a weird way. I was able to catch it, so we took it a wildlife rehabilitator. She said it was a spinal injury and she'd give it something to help it sleep and bring down the inflammation, but it might not live. I think we did the right thing, but I found myself wondering how that was for the squirrel. I imagine it would have died of exposure or been eaten if left alone. That seems more stressful to me, but I just can't know. I also wonder if I was just burdening the rehabilitator with an animal that wasn't going to make it. It seems like their work must be very hard and consuming of both physical and emotional energy.
Another time, we found a raccoon that for some reason was unconscious, laying in the yard. I didn't feel safe about touching it to see what was wrong, since I feared it might still bite or attack, so we just made it a little box shelter so it could stay warm, but sadly, it died. I can't help but wonder if we had done more, would it have lived? Or would that have been more stressful for it? What would have been the right course?

I always wonder in these situations what is kindest to the animal. It seems like catching them, moving them and treating them must be very stressful. But then, if there's a good chance of saving them, it seems worth it. If an animal is injured beyond a certain point, is it better to just let them die naturally? And how could one know without examining the animal closely? If anyone has thoughts to offer on how to tell when intervening is appropriate, I would be most grateful. Suggestions for what to do when there's clearly no hope (and how to tell when that's the case) would be welcome too. Are there ways to make it less stressful or painful? I don't think I would feel comfortable ending an animals life. I would have to be 110% sure it was the thing to do.
 
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nature sure can seem cruel at times.
I guess if your good at rehabbing animals or know that there are rehab places they can be taken too locally, why not.
I know there is a lot of predator pressure where I live and have lost 4 cats in less than a year. yesterday one of the two cats I have left did not show his face all day long. I though he was gone.. saddening it was. fortunately he came to feed bowl for breakfast this morning.
its very easy to get very attached to animals
 
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When I find an animal that is injured beyond saving we put it down, for example something that has been run over and lost the use of it's hind legs, it will die if you leave it alone but it might take days, in my opinion much better to kill it quickly yourself than let it suffer.
 
pollinator
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As a rehabber who has done wildlife rescue for over 25 years, whenever possible, BEFORE intervening/making a decision do CALL the rehabber. Personally, I would rather do an over the phone assessment (sending pics by text or email is really helpful!) or come in person to assess, rather than "letting nature take it's course".

More often than not, "nature" has nothing to do with sick, injured or orphaned wildlife. Truthfully, if not intentionally harmed by a human; a human is inadvertently responsible (hit by car, cat/dog attack, pesticides...) so we are not messing with nature but trying to repair the harm humans cause.

Please, do not feel you are burdening us, this is our passion, our raison d'etre, our mission. But do please follow our advice, and by all means, if it does not make sense, ask for an explanation. Most of us are very well versed in our local species, their habits and habitats - we have learned what works best, specifically, in our area. We are also, often your greatest resource with wildlife conflict, as our knowledge is very species and location specific.

Do know that regardless of your skill or intent, MOST places it is ILLEGAL to be in possession of native wildlife, can make you subject to great fines, and will invalidate your home insurance. Contacting a licensed wildlife rehabber will protect you, as you are simply holding or transporting per their instructions, so you, temporarily, become their agent.

Yes, there is a lot of death in wildlife rehab, and if it means we can end an animals suffering, humanely and swiftly, we are still doing a service for those whose lives we end. Better a clean, swift, death, when healing is out of the question, than a slow, painful, lingering one left up to nature.

Most us us will be grateful for any support you can offer, and it need not be cash. Food, such as fruits, berries, veggies, meat, grains, hay, straw etc. Are just a few products rehabbers need. Skilled persons (gardening, pruning, building, welding...) who can offer their time are more than valuable.

Many would love a Permie acreage as a release site! So do, take the time now to locate these individuals within your community, find out their hours/days of operation, and what types of critters they work with.

Oh, do grab one of those ugly pillow cases (any breathable sack would do) from the back of the linen cupboard, write your emergency rehab contact info on it and keep it rolled up (secured with sturdy rubber bands or twine) and stuffed into the glove box of all your vehicles. On and off road. They make fabulous emergency containment vessels for most birds and small mammals.
 
Heather Sharpe
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nature sure can seem cruel at times.


Sure can. Sorry to hear about your loss. Glad your remaining cat friend returned safe and sound!

More often than not, "nature" has nothing to do with sick, injured or orphaned wildlife. Truthfully, if not intentionally harmed by a human; a human is inadvertently responsible (hit by car, cat/dog attack, pesticides...) so we are not messing with nature but trying to repair the harm humans cause.  


I wholeheartedly agree. That's why I feel the need to help, but just want to be sure I am not harming by accident. My wording could have been better perhaps as I don't think these injuries happen naturally at all. I guess I just felt unsure if I was causing the squirrel more stress and wanted to know I did the right thing, if that makes sense. It seemed so distraught, whereas it seemed calmer (but certainly not normal) before I picked it up. I think it was just really upsetting to see a creature in such pain and distress and be afraid I was adding to that.

Thank you for sharing your experience and recommendations, Lorinne! This makes me feel better about the squirrel and more prepared if I encounter more animals in need of help. I definitely leave the actual care of the animals to the rehabbers. There aren't too many in my area, but I found two within an hour drive. My intervention is limited to getting the animals to them. The suggestion to call first is a great one. So far, most of the situations I have encountered didn't give me the time to, it was get the animal or it would have been gone. So I hadn't thought of that. The pillowcase tip is awesome! Will add that to the car. Along with some heavy gloves, perhaps.
Maybe when I have more spare time and energy, I can reach out to some of the rehabbers in the area and see if I can be of help in some way.

 
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