A friend called us yesterday to ask what to do about a baby opossum she found in her yard that seemed to be injured. If she had called you, would you have known what to tell her to do? You can call the Alexandria Police Department Dispatch at 703-838-4444 if you find a sick or injured animal, an animal that seems to be acting strangely or is in distress or in a trap of some kind. The dispatcher will tell you what action to take until assistance arrives. You can also contact the Wildlife Rescue League hotline at 703-440-0800. When you call them you will be prompted to press various numbers to find out what to do for the type of animal you are trying to help.
How would you know if the animal needs help? According to the WRL, if you find young birds or animals, be certain that the animal you found is really injured or orphaned. You might want to wait and watch for a while to see if the mother returns. If you see a baby bird that has fallen out of a nest and you can reach the nest, carefully pick up the bird and put it back. If you handle the animal try not to touch it with your hands, use a towel or other protection for your and for the animals safety.
If the animal or bird you have rescued is small you can put it in an appropriately sized box with soft padding materials like a towel and plenty of air holes for ventilation. Place the box in a warm, quiet, dark place until you are able to take the animal to a rehabilitator or someone is able to pick it up. Do not give water or food even though you may be tempted to do that.
The WRL does advise you to not try to capture an adult sick or injured mammal. Call the hotline or Police Dispatch for advice.
If you call the WRL for help you will be referred to a local, licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator. These are remarkable people who usually work out of their homes. They must be licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia to rehabilitate mammals and birds, and additionally by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to rehabilitate birds. They are not allowed to charge for their services.
Locally based Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitations President Erika Yery is licensed to work with birds, mammals, turtles and high-risk rabies species. In 2007, her organization cared for over 430 native wild animals and a few domestic ducks, geese and birds that people found and did not know what to do with. The list of rescues includes; birds, snakes, deer, ducks, squirrels, a groundhog, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, foxes, turkeys, turtles, and skunks. Most of them were able to be rehabilitated and were released back into the wild.
If you think that you are reading more stories about wild animals being found in unusual places, you are correct. Due to urbanization, many wild animals are losing their habitats and they are being found in backyards and wandering through neighborhoods. Please keep in mind that you humans are encroaching on their space and that these misplaced and often confused animals may need your assistance.
Do not pass by when you see an animal in distress. Call for assistance. The life you save is very precious. My neighbor did make that call about her injured opossum, help arrived and the baby is now in good hands. Keep those two numbers I gave you handy.
Keep your tail high and your feet dry!
Love, Daisy Mae