I’ve Found a Wild Animal
If you’ve found a wild animal that appears to be sick, injured or orphaned…
Safely contain the animal (instructions below) and bring it to our Wildlife Care Center – Located at 1450 Rollins Road in Burlingame, on the 2nd floor, as quickly as possible. We are open Monday through Friday 11am-7pm, and 11am-6pm on weekends. You can reach us at 650-340-7022.
Although the center is closed on holidays, we still accept wildlife during normal hours -information on how to contact a wildlife staff member when we are closed for holidays will be posted on our front door.
If you find a wild animal in need of care after hours, please bring the animal to After Hours Receiving at our Coyote Point shelter, located at 12 Airport Blvd in San Mateo. Our staff checks the After Hours receiving kennels routinely when the shelter isn’t open. They transfer animals to safe and appropriate housing and our wildlife staff prioritizes evaluating them at the start of their morning shift. We encourage you to bring animals to our After Hours Receiving as opposed to keeping wildlife under your care/observation at your home until our Wildlife Care center opens at 11 am. Animals received overnight are transferred to our Wildlife Care Center in Burlingame the following day.
Staff are not available 24/7 for telephone advice/consultations, but if you have found a sick/injured or orphaned wild animal, you can call us at 650-340-7022.
I've found a wild animal that appears to be sick, injured or orphaned. What do I do?
Steps for Transporting Wildlife:
- Select an appropriate sized box for containment; not so large that the animal will be able to thrash around and possibly injure itself, but not so small that the animal cannot rest comfortably.
- Line the box with a towel, and add ventilation holes, then carefully place the animal in the box.
- Place the animal somewhere warm, away from human noise, domestic pets and other disturbances until you can transport it to the nearest location.
- Use caution. Even very sick or injured animals can react aggressively if they feel threatened. Animals like hawks or owls have very strong talons that can cause serious injuries. Do not handle skunks, bats, or foxes with bare hands as they can be very aggressive and are rabies vector species.
Where to Bring Sick, Injured or Orphaned Wildlife:
- During normal business hours (including holidays): Wildlife Care Center at 1450 Rollins Road in Burlingame, on the 2nd floor. We are open Monday through Friday 11am-7pm, and 11am-6pm on weekends. You can reach us at 650-340-7022. Although the center is closed on holidays, we still accept wildlife during normal hours. Information on how to contact a wildlife staff member when we are closed for holidays will be posted on our front door.
- After normal business hours: Coyote Point Shelter (After Hours Receiving) at 12 Airport Blvd in San Mateo. Animals received overnight are transferred to our Wildlife Care Center in Burlingame the following day.
- Other organizations that accept sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife include Palo Alto Animal Services (650-329-2413), Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley (408-929-9453), and San Francisco Animal Care & Control (415-554-6364)
How can I tell if the animal is truly sick, injured, or orphaned?
What many people don’t realize is that most of the baby birds they find on the ground are supposed to be there. Nestlings grow up and become fledglings, which have stumpy tails and are fully feathered – but cannot yet fly. If you find a fledgling hopping on the ground, don’t pick it up. This period of being on the ground is a normal and necessary part of a bird developing the skills of survival. The parents are still around, feeding them, showing them where to look for food, and hiding them under bushes. The best thing you can do is keep your dogs, cats and children away from the area for a few days. If you’ve already picked up the bird, place it back where you found it or under a nearby bush. Of course, there are times when the fledgling does need help, such as when it’s injured or in the middle of a busy street. In that case, place the bird in a small, covered box or paper bag to keep it warm, dark and quiet, and bring it to a wildlife center. Minimum contact reduces stress and increases any animal’s chances of survival. DO NOT OFFER FOOD OR WATER.
If you find a featherless, downy, or incompletely feathered bird it will need your help. If the bird appears uninjured the best chance of survival is if it is returned to the nest. So if possible, gently return it to the nest. If you find a nest on the ground with babies or eggs, tie it back to a nearby tree. The nest can be placed in a little box or margarine tub (with drainage holes) to make it easier to secure. If the baby appears injured or the nest cannot be located, place the bird in a small, covered box lined with tissue; keep it warm, dark and quiet and try to get it to a wildlife center as soon as possible. DO NOT OFFER FOOD OR WATER.
The young of ducks, geese and many shorebirds are born with their eyes open and are able to immediately forage on their own. Ducks and geese will often leave their young for several hours; do not pick them up thinking they are abandoned – most times they are not. Obviously, there are situations when these babies are in distress and need to be rescued and you will need to evaluate the situation you find them in.
Just like young birds, young squirrels frequently fall out of their nest and do not always need to be rescued. It is always in the best interest of the squirrel to be raised by its parents. If you find a young squirrel on the ground that appears healthy, place the squirrel in a small box with low sides in the location where you found the squirrel. Put a warm blanket or a hot water bottle in the box to keep the squirrel warm. The mother will not take back a cold baby. Keep all domestic cats and dogs away from the area. Leave the box and observe from a hidden area for 3-4 hours. The mother will not approach if she feels threatened in any way. If after 3-4 hours the mother has not come to collect her young, the squirrel may need to be rescued. Contact your local wildlife center.
If you find a young squirrel on the ground and there are signs of blood, broken bones, or it has been attacked by a domestic cat or dog, contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center. Place the squirrel in a covered box with a towel. Keep it in a warm, dark and quiet place and bring it to a wildlife center as soon as possible.
If you find a young squirrel on the ground that appears healthy and the nest has been destroyed, the squirrel can still be returned to its mother. Squirrels use two or more nests concurrently throughout the year. Follow the steps above and allow the young squirrel a second chance at being raised in the wild by its mother.
Can I care for a sick, injured, or orphaned animal myself?
No. Rehabilitating wild animals, with rare exceptions, is illegal for members of the public. PHS/SPCA is licensed to care for wildlife through the California Department of Fish & Game and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. More importantly, rehabilitating wildlife is complex.
- Specialized diets – Each animal has specific dietary needs which vary by species, age and physical condition. Animals in our care are constantly re-assessed throughout the rehabilitation process to ensure we are meeting nutritional requirements.
- Peace and quiet – Many animals become highly stressed around humans, whom they view as predators. It is imperative that they be kept in quiet quarters.
- Education – Animals raised as orphans must be taught life skills before they are released, such as how to obtain appropriate food. This requires a knowledgeable caregiver, able to provide an appropriate environment.
- Socialization – Animals are placed in age appropriate groups with their own species. This is especially important for young animals in order to learn communication and social skills, which are necessary for their survival.
- Maintaining wild instincts – Human-animal interactions are restricted to a minimum. If animals lose their natural caution around humans and become tame, they may lose their ability to survive in the wild.
- Zoonotic diseases – Animals can be host to organisms causing diseases such as rabies, aspergillosis, Lyme disease, salmonella, and Hantavirus.
What happens when I bring in a wild animal?
All animals are given an examination to determine if the animal is sick, injured or orphaned. During the examination we look for the following:
- signs of shock, dehydration, and emaciation
- wounds, infections, parasites, and fractures
- neurological damage
Immediate treatment can include administering fluids and medications, taking x-rays, and processing bloodwork. Though unusual, some animals can be released within 24 hours after observation and minor care.
Many of the babies we receive have been separated from their parents. While at our center, they learn and refine survival skills such as searching for food and building nests. Once old enough to care for themselves, they are released back into the wild. Animals with severe medical issues such as emaciation, fractures, wounds requiring sutures, and complicated infections require a longer healing process.
Prior to release, each animal is assessed to ensure its ability to survive in the wild. Animals must be in good physical condition and possess skills necessary for survival. For example, birds must be able to sustain flight and find food.
Animals are released in accordance with the California Department of Fish & Game regulations. They are released where they were found, or in an appropriate habitat which meets the conditions required for that species. Unfortunately, we are not able to save every animal – some arrive so badly injured that recovery is not possible. These animals are humanely euthanized. If this happens to the animal you brought to us, please don’t feel like your efforts were useless. Your care allowed an animal to have a quick and painless end, rather than prolonged suffering.