Wildlife belongs in the wild. Occasionally, people will find juvenile wildlife that appears to be orphaned, sick or injured. The public should avoid handling wildlife to prevent bites and scratches. Some species can carry diseases and parasites that are harmful to humans. Injured wildlife also requires specialized and immediate care to recover and return to the wild. Under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, a person may only keep wildlife for 24 hours to transport it to a wildlife custodian for care or medical attention or to relocate it following capture as a problem animal.
Juvenile wild animals do not make good pets because they become difficult to handle as they grow. Once used to humans, released animals are not likely to survive in the wild because they do not have the necessary skills to stay alive. They may also be attracted to people, leading to their eventual death. Wild animals can also be attracted to properties that provide shelter and/or food, resulting in conflict and property damage.
Just because a young animal is alone does not mean it is orphaned. It is normal for some species to leave their offspring temporarily alone, 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.
An exception would be the Virginia opossum, which spend the first three months of life in the female’s pouch. If you find a juvenile opossum alone, it is safe to assume that it is in need of help.
- Check the animal periodically for 24 to 48 hours to see if it is still around, but keep your distance.
- Keep cats and dogs away from the area where the young animal is; the adult will not return if it is noisy or if predators or people are close by.
- Blood, wounds or swelling on the body
- Lethargy or coldness to the touch
- Body covered in fleas
- Unusual or uneven loss of fur or feathers
- Vocalizing and/or following humans around
- A fawn that is wandering around
- Contact with a domestic cat
- Difficult or raspy breathing or sneezing
- A dangling leg or wing
- Closed eyes
- Head tucked under wing
The best approach is always to leave a juvenile wild animal alone unless you are certain it has been abandoned or it is injured.
If you find an injured, sick or orphaned wild animal, contact a wildlife custodian who can provide the specialized and immediate care necessary to help the animal. If you must handle it, seek the advice of a wildlife custodian 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.
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. 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.
To report a dead crow, raven or blue-jay bird contact your local Public Health Unit. To report other dead animals or birds contact the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre (CCWHC).
Province-wide: Alberta Society for Injured Birds of Prey
Calgary: Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (CWRS)
Cochrane: Cochrane Ecological Institute – Cochrane Wildlife Reserve
Accept migratory/ song birds, as well as terrestrial wildlife ranging from small to large mammals, native amphibians, and avian wildlife.
Edmonton: Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton
Accept all species of birds and small mammals, excluding adult skunks (babies are accepted), bats, pigeons, larger mammals such as deer, moose, etc.
Lethbridge area: Coaldale Rehabilitation Centre
Specializing in Raptors, do not accept migratory/ song birds, or other types of animals. Can provide contact information. Provide environmental learning sessions from May 10 to September 10.
Red Deer: Medicine River Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
Accept migratory/ songbirds, raptors, all wildlife from the area.
Province-wide: Wildlife Rehabilitators Network of British Columbia
Abbotsford: Elizabeth's Wildlife Centre Society
*Use phone number for emergencies*
Accept (specialize in) migratory/ song birds as well as small mammals (squirrels, possums, rabbits)
Courtenay: Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society
Accept migratory/ songbirds. Accept deer during the summer, other wildlife is accepted for transport.
Delta: O.W.L. Rehab Society
Birds of prey only, no migratory/ song birds (only dead ones to be used as food).
Langley: Critter Care Wildlife Society
Rehabilitate native animals ranging from squirrels to black bear cubs. Do not accept birds.
Prince Rupert: Prince Rupert Wildlife Rehab Shelter
This location accepts migratory/song birds as well as all other types of wildlife.
Vancouver: Marine Mammal Rescue, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre
Tel: 604-258-SEAL (7325)
Only marine mammals and sea turtles accepted at this location
Victoria: BC SPCA Wild Arc - Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre
Accepts migratory/ song birds, as well as mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Able to treat native and non-native species, with the exception of predatory species (bears, cougars, wolves).
Winnipeg: Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
This location accepts all species of birds including migratory/ song birds, as well as reptiles, and small to medium sized mammals (excluding deer, skunks, and raccoons).
Winnipeg: The Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre
This location receives approximately 1700 animals each year. The Centre is equipped to handle all avian species, including large birds of prey and herons, as well as most native Manitoba mammals.
Moncton: Greater Moncton SPCA
Tel: (506) 857-8698
House wildlife and transfer to rehabilitation centre.
Sackville: Atlantic Wildlife Institute
Tel: (506) 364-1902
Accept migratory/ song birds, all species of wildlife including species at risk.
Colchester county (Hilden): Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Tel: 902 893-0253
This location accepts all bird species including migratory/ song birds, as well as small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.
Seaforth: Hope for Wildlife Society
They accept all native Nova Scotia wildlife, including migratory/ songbirds.
Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park
Tel: (902) 758-2040
This location accepts all indigenous wildlife as well as migratory/ songbirds.
Province of Ontario: Ontario Wildlife Rescue
Kitchener-Waterloo: Turtle Haven
Focus on native turtles. Possesses a list of wildlife custodians in the Waterloo Region that will accept migratory/ songbirds.
Ottawa: Wild Bird Care Centre
This location accepts all species of birds including raptors, waterfowl, and migratory/ song birds.
Ottawa County (North Gower): Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary
Accept wild mammals and turtles.
Rockwood: SOAR - Songbirds Only Avian Rehabilitation
Only migratory/ songbirds accepted.
Toronto: Toronto Wildlife Centre
Utterson: A Wing And A Prayer, Muskoka Centre for Wild Birds
Accept all species of birds, as well as migratory/ songbirds. Can refer mammals and other wildlife to regional wildlife centres.
Windsor: Erie Wildlife Rescue, Inc.
Accept all native species to the region, as well as migratory/ songbirds.
Montreal: Urban Animal Advocates, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre
Accept all species, including migratory/ songbirds
Southwest region, Montérégie (Hudson) : Le Nichoir Bird Rehabilitation Centre
Accept birds, as well as migratory/ songbirds
Province of Saskatchewan: Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan
Moose Jaw: Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre
This is not a rehabilitation centre, but an educational centre. They will accept burrowing owls for rehabilitation only.
Whitehorse: Yukon Wildlife Preserve
Information compiled by Nature Canada volunteer Brett Hare