Found Injured or Orphaned Wildlife?
Injured wildlife should be brought to The Wildlife Center of Texas as soon as possible (see paragraph BELOW if the animal is a raccoon, skunk, bat, fox, or coyote). Injuries are often treatable, but the longer an animal has to wait before receiving care, the more difficult it is to successfully treat them. The Wildlife Center of Texas is OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK and works closely with veterinary staff at the Houston SPCA and students at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine to give injured wildlife all the help they need. Our website is full of inspiring stories of badly injured animals that were brought to The Wildlife Center of Texas by a rescuer and made a full recovery. Please bring injured wildlife to us as quickly as possible to give them the best chance of survival.
After Hours Care
In the event that an injured animal is found after hours, the best treatment a rescuer can give the animal is warmth. Warm temperatures help keep an animal calm, avoid shock, and promote healing. Injured animals should NOT be given food or liquids, as these may actually do more harm than good. Keep the animal in a dark, quiet place, such as contained in a box or kennel, and put them in a warm place until they can be brought to The Wildlife Center of Texas the next morning.
Rabies Vector Species
The Harris County Health Department classifies Raccoons, Skunks, Bats, Foxes, and Coyotes as high-risk rabies vector species, and special care must be taken to ensure that no saliva exposure occurs. Due to an advisory from the regulatory authorities at the Harris County Health Department, we may not accept skunks, bats, foxes, or coyotes. We are able to accept raccoons from certain counties in the greater Houston area, but not all. Please call The Wildlife Center of Texas at 713-861-9453 to speak with staff in order to determine whether we are permitted to take raccoons from your county.
Can you help me take care of it myself?
The short answer is no. All native Texas wildlife is protected under state or federal laws. Most bird species are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. These laws prohibit people from keeping wild animals, even those well-meaning individuals who want to help an injured or orphaned animal, and fines can be imposed by state and federal agencies on those who violate the laws. Injured and orphaned animals can be brought to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator. Rehabilitators are legally allowed to care for protected wildlife, and have the experience to do so successfully.
If you have found a wild animal in need of help, you can refer to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website to find the rehabilitator closest to you. In many cases, The Wildlife Center of Texas will be your most convenient option, and our center is open seven days a week to take in local wildlife in need of help.
The most important thing to do if you find a baby wild animal is to make sure it truly is an orphan! Wild animals are good parents and many times well-meaning rescuers pick up and whisk away healthy youngsters while their parents watch. This is especially true of fawns, baby rabbits and fledgling birds. Species-specific advice can be found in the following sub-sections. There are several signs to watch for indicating a baby animal is in need of help. If the baby is cold; appears to be injured; is covered in ants, flies, or fly eggs/maggots; or is very weak, it should be rescued and brought to a rehabilitator as quickly as possible.
If a young animal is truly orphaned, or if it appears to be injured, the best action a rescuer can take is to keep the baby warm. Hypothermia (becoming too cold) is life threatening, and almost all wildlife, with the exception of the opossum, has internal temperatures that are higher than ours. Place the animal in a box with soft rags and use a heating pad set on low or a rice sock (dry uncooked rice placed in a sock and heated for 30 – 45 seconds in a microwave) to keep it warm. DO NOT give the animal food or liquids. Great harm can come to an animal that is fed the wrong food, at the wrong time or in the wrong way.
If the baby animal you have found is one of the high-risk rabies species (raccoon, skunk, bat, fox, coyote), please speak to the Wildlife Center of Texas staff before bringing to make sure we can accept it. Any other baby should be brought The Wildlife Center of Texas as soon as possible. If it is after hours, keep the animal warm as described above until you can bring it to our center the next day.
Nestling birds have little to no feathers and still need a parent’s body temperature to keep warm. Often the baby can be put back into the nest or into a hanging basket or bucket to protect them from dogs and cats and the parent will continue to bring food to the baby.
Don’t forget to put holes in the bottom of the container to prevent drowning should it rain. It is NOT true that the parent will abandon the baby if touched by humans – birds will not reject the nestling or fledgling even if they see it being handled by a rescuer. Be sure to monitor the baby, if Mom doesn’t return or the baby appears to become weak, get help quickly.
Fledgling birds have short stubby wing and tail feathers and are beginning to look like the parents. They spend hours or days on the ground while learning to fly and are supplemented with food from their parents. If the baby has wing feathers and a stubby tail, it’s supposed to be on the ground learning to fly. Place it in a tall bush or small tree and keep pets away from the area.
Look for injuries such as a broken wing or leg. Also look for the presence of ants, fly eggs or maggots. Fly eggs look like clumps of small yellow rice grains. The whole body should be checked for fly eggs since they will be laid on any broken skin or body opening.
Birds that live in colonies
Purple Martins and other birds that live in houses can be infested with mites, especially if the house hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned the previous winter. If babies repeatedly jump out of the house before they are physically ready, the problem could be mites. Be very careful with your selection of insecticide, 1% rotenone powder or pyrethrin spray are known to be safe for wild birds. 5% Sevin dust is also safe when used in the small amounts as specified on the label.
Young mammals may appear lost and alone while they explore or wait for parents to return from foraging for food nearby. This is especially true for deer and rabbits who intentionally do not remain with their babies during the day. Each time the mom returns from foraging, she leaves another scent trail that could potentially lead a predator to the nest. So, as the baby gets older and can go longer between nursing, she spends more and more time nearby, but not with her offspring. Mammalian mothers will frequently come to retrieve young that have fallen from a nest. Try placing the baby in a small, open box below the nest area and give mom about two hours to get the baby. This can be especially effective with squirrels and raccoons. Keep in mind that The Wildlife Center of Texas cannot accept many of the rabies-vector mammal species per an advisory from the Harris County Health Department, so make every attempt to reunite babies with their mother.
Nocturnal animals out during the day
Nocturnal does NOT mean that the animal only comes out at night. Unless there are other odd behaviors, the animal is probably just fine. While nocturnal animals are usually shy and elusive, this does not mean that the animal will not exhibit curiosity about our activities.
All omnivores and carnivores, furred and feathered will exhibit curiosity about changes in their environment. Hanging out at the edge of the light, sitting on the top of the fence or in the case of raccoons, peering into windows is not and should not be considered aggressive behavior.
However, if you discover an adult wild animal that is easily approachable or appears “tame” or “friendly”, it has a SERIOUS problem. Do not mistake this presentation as “friendly” – extreme caution should be used! Wearing protective gloves, throw a blanket or towel over the animal and gently push the animal into a cardboard box, cover and tape the box closed. . Call the Wildlife Center of Texas 713-861-WILD as soon as possible. If you suspect distemper or rabies, your local Animal Control should be contacted. DO NOT FEED OR WATER THE ANIMAL!