What to do if you find an injured wild animal – Q&A for pet owners

3 June 2024

If you find an injured or unwell wild animal in your garden or elsewhere, it can be difficult to know what to do for the best and whether the animal needs veterinary treatment. For Garden Wildlife Week, we’ve prepared this brief Q&A on what to do if you come across the most commonly encountered injured wild animals.

What should I do if I find a baby bird out of its nest?

It’s common to see baby birds on the ground in spring and summer. Fledglings (fully feathered baby birds) intentionally leave the nest before they can fly, and might be seen hopping around on the ground. It’s normally best to leave them alone and keep your pets away from them, as the bird’s parents are usually nearby and still feeding them. If the baby bird is in immediate danger, you can pick it up (wearing gloves) and move it somewhere safe and sheltered, no more than a few metres away, for the parents to find easily.

By contrast, nestlings (baby birds without feathers) should not be out of their nest as they won’t survive long outside. In this case, the bird should be returned to its nest, if you know where it came from. If you can’t see a nest or it has been damaged or fallen down, you can make a replacement nest using a basket or plant pot with some nesting material inside, and attach to the nearest tree, to put the bird in.

If the bird is visibly injured or you know for sure that its parents are dead, you should contact your local vet or wildlife rescue centre for advice.

What should I do if I find an injured hedgehog?

If you find a hedgehog that is staggering around, lethargic, lying still (not in a nest) or ‘sunbathing’, has flies around it or with an obvious sign of injury, it will need help urgently.

Gently pick up the hedgehog using gardening gloves or a folded towel and place it into a high-sided cardboard box with an old towel in the bottom. Fill a hot water bottle with warm but not boiling water, wrap it with a towel, and place it in the bottom of the box, making sure there’s enough room for the hedgehog to get off the bottle if it gets too warm. Offer water and meaty cat or dog food, then call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890 801 for advice. If in need of urgent help, the hedgehog will need to be taking to a vet immediately.

What should I do if I find a bat on the ground or there’s a bat in my house?

If you find a bat outside that is on the ground, exposed during the day (such as on a wall or fence), has been in contact with a cat, is stuck to something (such as barbed wire or flypaper) or is a pup (baby) without its mother, it will need help. Follow this advice from the Bat Conservation Trust.

It’s possible to contain a bat without touching it, but if you do need to touch it, it’s very important to wear gloves. For the bat’s protection, it’s recommended that cover your nose and mouth, to reduce the risk of passing the COVID-19 virus onto the bat. To contain a bat, find a small box (a shoe box is ideal) or container with holes punched in the lid. Place the box on top of the bat and slide a piece of card underneath, like you would to catch a spider. If that’s not possible, cover the bat with a tea towel or soft cloth and carefully scoop it into the box. Put a tea towel or cloth into the box for the bat to hide under and add a plastic bottle cap (e.g. a milk bottle top) with just a few drops of water for the bat to drink from. Do not add any food. Keep the box in a quiet and dark place indoors, away from pets, and call the National Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228 for advice.

If the bat is flying around inside during the day, close the door in the room it’s in, wait for it to land and then contain it using the method above. If the bat was flying strongly, wait until dusk and then you can release it if the weather is warm (not below 5⁰C) and dry by placing the box at least five feet above the ground (e.g. on a wall) and on its side so the bat can crawl out.

If the bat if flying around inside during the evening, open the window(s) of the room the bat is in, switch off the lights and close the door. The bat should find its own way out of the window – check after a couple of hours. If the bat does not fly away on its own, contact the National Bat Helpline.

What if I find an injured large animal or bird?

If you find an injured large animal, such as a deer, or large bird like a bird of prey (e.g. owl) or swan or goose, do not attempt to pick it up. Contact your local vet or wildlife rescue centre for advice.