The Washington Post

How to help wild animals, and when to let them alone


Male and female pidgeons are permanent residents at City Wildlife, the first and only wildlife rehab organization within Washington. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
Helping wildlife:

The area’s wildlife rescue organizations encourage animal lovers to help injured creatures, but they warn that people can be too quick to intervene with juvenile animals that might appear to be abandoned but are actually fine.

Birds and small mammals require assistance if they are bleeding or visibly injured, at danger from cold temperatures, stunned from impact with a vehicle or a window, swarmed by insects or trapped in netting or glue traps. (Do not attempt to remove the creature from the trap; just cover any sticky area with paper towels.) Lone ducklings and goslings and young animals that approach people or pets also need help.

People should not attempt to assist most juvenile animals that are alone but uninjured. Young deer, rabbits, birds and other species are often left alone by their mothers for hours, without being at risk. Fledgling songbirds often learn to fly from the ground and are not in trouble when fluttering clumsily there. Birds that are clearly too young to attempt to fly can be returned to their nests.

Newly hatched reptiles are independent and don’t need aid if they’re unhurt. Turtles found in the road should be moved to the side and pointed in the same direction in which they were traveling.

Adult deer can be dangerous and should be avoided. So should animals prone to rabies, including foxes, raccoons, bats and skunks. If any of these species seem to be sick, call your jurisdiction’s animal control department.

For more information, contact:

→ City Wildlife: 15 Oglethorpe St. NW. 202-882-1000, www.citywildlife.org.

→ Second Chance Wildlife Center: 7101 Barcellona Dr., Gaithersburg. 301-926-9453, www.scwc.org.

→ Wildlife Rescue League: 703-391-8625, www.wildliferescueleague.org.

Animals can be taken to City Wildlife and Second Chance from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. They should not be left outside the facilities when they’re closed.

— Mark Jenkins

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