What to do if You Find a Sick, Injured or Orphaned Wild Animal


If you see what you think may be sick, injured or orphaned wildlife, don't remove it from its natural habitat. The bird or animal may not need assistance and you could actually do more harm attempting to help.


Where an animal is in need of help, it requires specialized care to recover and return to the wild. You cannot keep wildlife in captivity without approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources in the Southern Region, however, a person may possess a wild animal for up to 24 hours to transport it to a wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian.


Determining if Wildlife is Orphaned


Some species leave their offspring alone temporarily, especially during the day. For example, deer and cottontail rabbits spend much of the day away from their well-camouflaged offspring to minimize the chance of predators finding them.


To determine if young wildlife is truly orphaned, check the animal periodically for 24 to 48 hours to see if it is still around. Keep your distance. Keep cats and dogs away from the area inhabited by the young animal.  The adult may not return if it is noisy or if predators or people are close by.


Figuring out what to do


Contact your local Ministry of Natural Resources office for help in assessing the situation and on what action you should take.

If you must handle the animal, take care to minimize the risk of injury to yourself and to the animal. Wear protective clothing and equipment, such as leather gloves, to avoid bites or scratches and wash your hands well after handling the animal.


Signs of injury or illness

  • Blood, wounds or swelling on the body
  • Body covered in fleas
  • Unusual or uneven loss of fur or feathers
  • Moose with substantial hair loss or with visible winter ticks
  • Difficult or raspy breathing or sneezing
  • A dangling leg or wing
  • Closed eyes amd head tucked under wing

Care Necessary To Help The Animal (Southern Region Only)

  • Contact a wildlife rehabilitator who can help you assess the situation and provide advice on what action to take.
  • If specialized and immediate care is necessary to help the animal, take it to a wildlife rehabilitator or a veterinarian within 24 hours of capture.
  • If you must handle the animal, follow the instructions provided by the wildlife rehabilitator on how to minimize risk of injury to yourself and to the animal.
  • Wear protective clothing and equipment, such as leather gloves, to avoid bites or scratches, and wash hands well after handling the animal.

It is important to recognize that many of the volunteer-operated organizations have limited capacity to accept animals, especially during the spring.


Diseased or Dead Wildlife (Northeast, Northwest and Southern Regions)

  • To report dead animals, including birds or bats, contact the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre (www.ccwhc.ca) at 1-866-673-4781.
  • If you suspect there is a public health risk from a sick wild animal, such as rabies, or you or your pet had contact with a suspected rabid animal, contact your local Public Health Unit immediately at 1-866-532-3161.
  • Rabies is fatal for humans and animals if not treated.
  • Symptoms of rabies and several other diseases in animals can include tremors, aggressive behaviour, partial paralysis, convulsions, and loss of fear of humans.

Contact Information



For more information, visit ontario.ca/wildlife


Public Health Units:

Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre: