Hiking hoosers, backyard bird watchers, farmers, and anyone who sees sick or injured wildlife can contact local rehab clinics for help, but there are a few things you need to know before you pick up the phone — or an animal.
There are 59 Permitted Wildlife Rehabilitators in Indiana who work towards the goal of helping sick or injured animals recover so they can be released back into the wild. A full list, on the Department of Natural Resources website, has contact information for each local rehab facility, so look there to find the closest one.
Here’s a quick list of things to consider when reporting tips according to local fixers in Indiana.
Unaccompanied babies should not be left behind
This tops the list of warnings from many rehabbers, and DNR also notes that apparently abandoned animals are most likely still in the care of adults.
Adults may be gathering food and may not return if a person is near the young, DNR’s website says. Human scent can warn predators that young prey may be nearby. It can also disrupt the reproductive cycle to remove young from nests, so it’s best to observe from a distance and call a rehabber before attempting any sort of rescue.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is warming up 90% of wildlife will not survive and recommends action if the following is observed:
- The animal is clearly injured, bleeding or has a broken bone
- It’s covered with fly eggs
- It’s been crying for over a day
- It looks weak and lies on its side
- A pet or other animal has attacked it
Let the professionals lead the way
Each animal’s nutritional needs can vary widely, and professionals have specific training to know which food is right for which animal.
WildCare Rehabilitation Centers in Bloomington warn that no wild animal should be fed cow’s milk, as the lactose can be fatal to most infants. The rehab website says many of the animals brought to the clinic have been harmed by inappropriate care in captivity.
To increase survival, specific housing, handling and feeding needs must be met for each animal.
Keep the animal where it is, if possible
First and foremost, wildlife can have disease-carrying pests or parasites. It is important to bring your pets indoors and not use them with bare hands if picking up the sick or injured animal is unavoidable.
Animals won’t reject their young if they feel humans have handled it, but picking up wildlife is stressful for them and should be kept to a minimum. Call a rehabber before attempting to lift or move an animal.
If an animal must be handled, WildCare recommends keeping it in a warm, quiet environment, preferably in a box with towels, pillowcases, t-shirts, or tissue paper.
Report unknown illness or death
While DNR does not provide rehabilitation services, it collects and tracks information online about wildlife that appears to be sick or dead with no apparent cause.
To protect people, livestock and wildlife, state officials must be aware of new outbreaks of disease. The department keeps track of these via an online reporting tool:
Researchers are interested in recurrent same-site deaths, individual deer showing signs of chronic wasting disease (slimming, staggering or standing with poor posture, excessive drooling), individual deer with signs of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (death in or near water, loss of appetite and wariness, swelling around the head and neck, pink or bluish color mouth and tongue) and incidents involving endangered or threatened species.
Do not keep wildlife as pets
Wildlife is meant to be wild, and once a young animal gets used to humans, it cannot be reintroduced to the wild. Animals are also active and independent and can become destructive as they age.
In Indiana, for any reason, it is illegal to keep native animals without a permit. Most native species are protected by state and federal laws.
IndyStar’s environmental reporting project is made possible by the generous support of the non-profit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.