Sick and Injured Wildlife

If you find a sick or injured wild animal in Virginia, please call the Wildlife Center at 540.942.9453 for advice on the best way to help.

The Center is open seven days a week, 9 am to 5 pm. 

Student externs masked treating a box turtle patient

Virginia Opossum rescuer picking up possum with gloves.For emergencies after 5:00 pm, rescuers can call to leave a message for the on-call veterinarian. Wildlife rescuers may call the Center’s number to receive the on-call phone number, then leave a message for our on-call staff. A wildlife emergency includes animals that are having trouble breathing, are non-responsive, lying on their side, bleeding profusely, have broken limbs, or have extensive wounds. If you find such an animal, contact the Wildlife Center and refer as necessary to the information below on Capturing an Injured Animal, and on Rabies and Wildlife.

Non-injured young wildlife are not considered a medical emergency; please leave a message on the Center’s main phone line and someone will return your call the next day after 9:00 am Eastern. Animals that have been in a cat’s mouth do need treatment even if they aren’t obviously injured; please call the Center for advice. Remember, if you find a baby animal in need, please make sure you aren’t unintentionally removing it from its parent(s)!

Please note the following state restrictions in Virginia!

Wildlife rehabilitators are not permitted to treat adult deer or coyotes. If you find an injured adult deer or coyote, call your local sheriff’s department, animal control, or Department of Wildlife Resources officer. Wildlife rehabilitators are also not permitted to treat and release non-native species, including European Starlings, House Sparrows, Rock Doves [pigeons], Mute Swans, and Red-eared Sliders.

Capturing Injured Wildlife

Bald Eagle patient being held by rehabilitator

Use caution when attempting to capture injured wildlife. Even very debilitated wild animals will attempt to defend themselves. Proper safety equipment (gloves, protective eyewear) should always be used; wild animals should never be handled bare-handed. Other helpful rescue items include blankets/towels, nets, or anything else that allows you to assist the animal without coming into direct contact. Please call the Wildlife Center for specific rescue advice for the species with which you are dealing.

If you are unable to reach someone by phone and need to assist an animal quickly, follow these general steps, and always remember to keep yourself safe!

  1. Prepare a crate or box for the injured animal.
    Line the bottom with a sheet or non-looping towel so that the animal can stand without sliding around.
  2. Throw a towel or sheet over the animal.
    In most cases, this works well; it helps contain/restrain the animal, and also covers its eyes, which helps reduce stress. Wearing protective gloves, pick up the animal and move into the transport container. Use extra caution when assisting mammals (see rabies page for more advice).
  3. Secure the container so that the animal cannot escape.
    If using a cardboard box, make sure flaps are secured with duct tape.
  4. House the animal in a warm, dark, quiet area, away from people and pets.
    Resist the urge to peek or take photos; while this may be an exciting experience for you, remember it is quite stressful to the wild animal. Avoid talking, loud music, and other disturbing noises. Unless otherwise instructed by a permitted wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian, do not feed or give water to the animal. Food can often end up making an injured animal sick; it can also impede further treatment when a wildlife rehabilitator receives the animal!
  5. Get the animal to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian as soon as possible.
    Delaying treatment for sick and injured animals can reduce the chances of success. Call for help on next steps. 

Want to be prepared for a wildlife emergency? You can prepare a Wildlife Rescue kit to carry in your automobile.

Remember, it’s illegal to rehabilitate wildlife without a permit, and illegal to keep wild animals as pets.

The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to treat sick, injured, and orphaned animals and return them to the wild. Trained wildlife professionals will know how to best assist the injured animal in question, and can begin effective treatment with the goal of release.

Wildlife Diseases

In Virginia, wildlife diseases pose significant challenges to native wildlife populations. These diseases can range from bacterial and viral infections to parasitic infestations, impacting various species throughout the state. Wildlife conservation efforts often include monitoring and managing these diseases to mitigate their impact on vulnerable species and ecosystems.

Interested in Doing More for Wild Animals?

If you’d like to be prepared to assist any injured wild animals you may encounter, you can put together a travel rescue kit to keep in your vehicle as needed!

Volunteer transporters provide a vital, life-saving service to both the Wildlife Center and the community by facilitating the rescue/transport of wild animals.

Through Wildlife Care Academy learn how to safely assist any injured wildlife that you encounter, or even become a permitted wildlife rehabilitator.