We all want to help animals when we believe they are orphaned or injured, but you should always ensure an animal is indeed in need of help before intervening.
Young fledgling raptors and other birds are often mistaken for being injured when they are found on the ground. Most often, however, the bird is taking its first journey away from its nest and learning to fly. These birds often return to their nest or are taken care of on the ground by their parents.
Before attempting to intervene with a raptor you believe is injured, ensure something is visibly wrong – such as the bird is having trouble walking or cannot fly – before capturing it, as it may be completely healthy. If possible, call a wildlife rehabilitator near you or call the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital at 509-335-0711 prior to intervening.
Do not attempt to capture an injured raptor unless you feel comfortable, and use caution, as you can inadvertently cause more injury to the bird or hurt yourself. Contact the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital at 509-335-0711 if you have any questions or concerns.
How to help an injured raptor
- Secure the bird – An adult should place a blanket or thick jacket over the back of the raptor and grasp the raptor with both hands, making sure to keep the wings folded in. Wearing thick, leather gloves will provide the most protection. Use caution because the raptor will try to defend itself by using its talons.
- Place the raptor in a cardboard box or a hard plastic animal kennel large enough for the bird to stand up in. If placing in a cardboard box, provide the bird with small holes cut near the bottom. Never place a raptor in a wire cage because the wire damages their feathers. Keep the box in a quiet, dark place, away from other animals or danger. If a box is not available, hold the raptor firmly in the blanket or jacket until turning it over to a veterinarian for proper care. Keep its head covered and maintain a secure hold of its feet.
- Do not attempt to offer food. If the bird is dehydrated it may not be able to digest it. Attempting to feed the bird may kill it. Water may be offered and is often readily accepted by dehydrated birds.
- Call wildlife officials – Call your local wildlife rehabilitator to arrange to bring the raptor to them. If you need help locating a licensed wildlife rehabilitator you should contact your local fish and wildlife department. Please note, IT IS ILLEGAL FOR PRIVATE INDIVIDUALS TO ATTEMPT TO REHABILITATE WILD ANIMALS WITHOUT A LICENSE. Injured wildlife should be transported to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.
Helping injured birds of prey can provide a bird with a second chance. If you bring an injured raptor to WSU, you are more than welcome to call to check on its status anytime during normal business hours.
All native birds are protected in the United States under the Migratory Bird Act of 1918. It is illegal to harass, catch, possess, or house raptors without special permits. Violations of this law, including the shooting of a bird or even owning a feather from a bird, are extreme and involve high monetary penalties or even imprisonment.
Do not attempt to care for an injured raptor. Raptors require a well-balanced diet and many die because people attempt to care for them. Please turn any raptor over to a licensed rehabilitator immediately for proper care.