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Helpful Advice

I found an animal and I think it needs help. What do I do now?

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You may come across a wounded or sick wild animal or bird so here is some useful information to help you rescue the casualty and take it to where it can get the most appropriate help fast. Please don't spend time asking for advice on social media as this will delay treatment and some advice may not be appropriate.  Please phone your local IWRA member for advice before attempting rescue in most cases.

Before calling your local wildlife rehabber, please make note of the following:

  • Exact location of the animal

  • Is the animal visibly injured ie. bleeding. Is the animal able to move?

  • If possible take a video or a photo of the animal

  • Always remain calm and quiet around a wild animal. Keep children and dogs away from the animal and keep it in a quiet warm room until advised on appropriate care.


Birds - small garden birds, rooks, crows, pigeons etc.

Please note that in early summer it is perfectly normal to find young birds on the ground. Fledgelings often need a bit of time to practise their flight muscles before joining their parents in the sky and the mum and dad are very likely around keeping an eye on them. If you see a bird on the ground please take 20-30 minutes to observe from a distance. If the bird is uninjured, able to hop around and the parents visit regularly there is nothing to worry about. Normally baby birds will fly off in a day or two. Pets should be kept indoors during this time. If you have any concerns please call your rehabilitator for advice.

If a cat or other animal has injured the little bird it needs to be taken to a vet as soon as possible for an antibiotic.

Exception to the rule: If you see a grounded swallow, swift or a house martin they do need help regardless of age and you should contact your rehabilitator as soon as possible.

If the little bird has flown into a window follow the steps below and after an hour take the box outside and open it, a lot of times the little bird will fly off.

  • Throw a light cloth or towel over the bird.

  • Hold the wings gently into the body.

  • Place in a secure darkened box or cat carrier. A pillow case or breathable sack can be used in an emergency.

  • The box should be big enough to avoid breaking tail feathers.

  • Please don’t offer food or water at this stage

  • Phone your local wildlife rehabber for advice.

Birds of prey and Seabirds

WEAR GARDENING GLOVES and eye protection if possible when rescuing sea / fish eating birds such as Gannets or Herons. Only rescue these types of birds if you are sure you have sufficient protective gear and never put yourself at risk. 

  • Immediately throw a large thick towel over the head to help calm the bird and to prevent it targeting your face. Fish eating birds have long necks so be aware of their reach. They have dangerous beaks and are lighting fast so make sure the head is covered.

  • Birds of prey have dangerous feet, as well as strong beaks so try to completely cover the bird and be aware of the talons.

  • Place in a secure darkened box or cat carrier. A pillow case or breathable sack can be used in an emergency.

  • Phone your local wildlife rehabber for advice immediately.

Baby Hares (leverets)

Please phone your local wildlife rehabber for advice before attempting to rescue a leveret.

This is essential as Hares leave their leverets in hiding places and only go to their little one to  feed 2 or 3 times a day. The little one you find might not need to be “rescued”.

Advice given will depend on the leverets situation at the time.

Rabbits (kits)

Please phone your local wildlife rehabber for advice before attempting rescue.

  • If advised to rescue please wear gloves and gently place in a secure dark escape proof box or cat carrier.

  • Cover with any nesting material that may be with the kits, or fresh straw or towel.

  • A hot water bottle or plastic water bottle with warm, NEVER BOILING water, wrapped in a towel would be useful.


Please phone a specialist bat rehabilitator for advice before attempting to rescue the bat.

Bat Rehabilitation Ireland: Susan 0857219400 / Amy 0857734307

  • ALWAYS wear gloves bats can give rescuers a nip and may break the skin.

  • They can escape through the very tiniest gap so make sure they are in a very secure box e.g. a shoe box.

  • Place some kitchen towel on the bottom of the box and hang some kitchen towel or an small towel on the side of the box to allow a natural resting position for the bat.

  • Place a hot water bottle under one half of the box to allow the bat to move away from the warm end if needed.

  • Gently put the bat in the box and close the box making sure the bat can’t escape. 


Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals. If you see one out and about during the day something could be wrong. Phone your local wildlife rehabber for advice. If you need to handle a hedgehog, please follow this advice:

  • Wear gardening gloves, or wrap in a towel, jacket etc.

  • Place in a closed, secure, high sided, darkened box or cat carrier. A pillow case or breathable sack can be used in an emergency. Hedgehogs can escape so make sure the carrier is secure.

  • Cover with shredded newspaper or straw.

  • A hot water bottle or plastic water bottle with warm NEVER BOILING water, wrapped in a towel in the box will provide warmth.

  • Do not offer food or water.

  • Phone your local wildlife rehabber for advice.

Foxes, Badgers, Otters etc. (apex predators)

Please phone your local wildlife rehabber for advice before attempting to rescue as rescue by an untrained person should only be advised if the animal is in immediate danger.

Advice will be dependent on situation.

  • Use very thick gardening or welding gloves.

  • If the animal looks to be unconscious use a stick to gently check it’s alive.

  • Be very careful as they may react when handled.

  • Important – make sure the head is pointing away from the handler.  

  • Support the animal as much as you can and gently but quickly put in a secure plastic cat / dog carrier/dog crate. Cover the crate with a large towel / blanket. (Fox is easier than badger).

Be aware that these animals can quickly destroy a cardboard box and in some cases a lightweight plastic carrier. It may be necessary to contain these animals in a secure shed or garage till a trained volunteer arrives.


Can be aggressive especially with young around or protecting eggs. Phone your local wildlife rehabber for advice before attempting to rescue as you may need help from an experienced rescuer.


Please phone your local wildlife rehabber for advice before attempting to rescue

  • Do not approach or attempt to capture an injured adult deer. They are extremely dangerous. Please contact a rehabber to deal with these cases.

News & Resources

Tips if you must handle a wild animal

Please remember: YOUR SAFETY IS PARAMOUNT. Do not attempt a rescue if you are at all uncertain or nervous and never put yourself at risk. Call an experienced rehabber for help.

When handling a wild animal casualty it is important to minimise the stress and risk of further injury to the animal whilst also minimising the risk of escape and injury to the rescuer.

It is important to remember that however quiet and docile a wildlife casualty appears to be, it is still a wild animal and may have the potential to inflict serious injuries on its rescuer. In addition, shock due to initial injury, can wear off very rapidly (e.g. during a car journey) and the animal may suddenly become very active and / or aggressive depending on the species. Secure transport carriers are essential. Gently covering the head and eyes carefully makes it more difficult for the animal or bird  to direct attacks of teeth, bills or talons towards the rescuer before putting the casualty into an appropriate size box. Wild animals are stressed by proximity to humans and by being handled by us and most animals / birds are less stressed when they cannot see the humans around them. Once secured please don’t keep checking on the casualty, they are best left alone to calm and hide.

Commonly available items can be used such as:

  • cloths (throw a towel/lightweight blanket over the head).

  • clothing (e.g. jackets, shirts or sweatshirt, the arms of which may be tied under the head of the species).

  • Gardening gloves may provide protection from most species like hedgehogs but cannot provide total protection from injury when handling an apex predator like a fox or badger.

Many animals will calm down to some degree once they are within a confined dark space. An appropriately sized secure (cat carrier) box would be the most suitable. 

GPS location and phone photos of the immediate area and casualty would be very useful in determining the cause of injury and / or criminal activity.  Most species must be released back to where they were found. Please don’t offer food or water unless advised to do so by your local IWRA member.

Water Birds
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