Wildlife rescue: Should you help that animal in distress?

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Wildlife rescue: Should you help that animal in distress?

My animal-crazy youngest child, Molly, burst through the door the other day. "Mom!" she exclaimed. "There's an injured baby bird by the road! We have to save it!" I followed her outside and sure enough, just by the curb was a young mourning dove that didn't fly away as we got within inches of it.

Molly wanted to pop the bird in a shoebox and, somehow, care for it at our place. But her father and I said no, allowing her instead to just coax the creature to safety off the road and leave it be.

According to Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, that was the right thing to do. "If you see what you think may be a sick, injured or abandoned animal, don't remove it from its natural habitat," reads a recent ministry fact sheet. "It may not need assistance and you could do more harm trying to help."

How can you help? Here's what the ministry advises.

Is there truly a problem?
Sometimes an animal that looks abandoned actually is not. Some species, such as deer and cottontail rabbits, apparently leave their young alone during the day to help keep predators away. To figure out if a young animal is truly on its own, the ministry advices checking periodically for 24 to 48 hours to see if it's still around. "Keep your distance," it adds. "Keep cats and dogs away from the area. The adult animal may not return if it is noisy or if predators or people are close by."

How and when to help
If you see bloody wounds, signs of broken limbs or other indications that an animal is injured or in distress, contact an authorized animal rehabilitator or a veterinarian. Do not approach the animal unless instructed by one of those professionals, and follow any safety precautions regarding protective clothing and equipment.

Remember: "When an animal needs help, it requires specialized care to recover and return to the wild," states the ministry's fact sheet, pointing out that you cannot keep wildlife without approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

For more information, contact

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Wildlife rescue: Should you help that animal in distress?