What to do if you find sick or injured animals and wildlife in Indiana
Indiana hikers, backyard bird watchers, farmers, and anyone else who sees sick or injured wildlife can contact local rehab clinics for help, but there are a few things to know before you pick up the phone, or an animal.
There are 59 licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Indiana who work with the goal of helping sick or injured animals to recover so they can be returned to the wild. A complete list, on the Department of Natural Resources website, has contact information for each local rehabilitation center, so check there to find the one closest to you.
Here’s a quick list of things to consider when reporting tips according to local Indiana rehabbers.
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Single babies cannot be abandoned
This tops many rehabbers’ list of warnings, and the DNR also notes that apparently abandoned animals are likely still in adult care.
Adults may be collecting food and not return if a person is near the young, the DNR website says. Human scent can alert predators that young prey may be nearby. It can also be detrimental to the reproductive cycle to remove hatchlings from nests, so it is best to observe from a distance and call a rehabilitator before attempting any type of rescue.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service warms 90% of animals caught in the wild will not survive and recommends action if the following is observed:
- The animal is obviously injured, is bleeding or has a broken bone.
- It is covered in fly eggs.
- He has been crying for more than a day
- He looks weak and is lying on his side.
- A pet or other animal attacked you
Let the professionals take the lead
The dietary needs of each animal can differ greatly, and professionals are specifically trained to know which foods are suitable for which animal.
WildCare Rehabbers in Bloomington Please note that no wild animals should drink cow’s milk as the lactose can be fatal to most baby animals. The rehab’s website says much of the wildlife brought to the clinic has been harmed by inadequate captive care.
To increase the chances of survival, the specific housing, management, and dietary needs of each animal must be met.
Keep the animal where it is, if possible.
First, wildlife may carry disease-carrying pests or parasites. It is important to bring your pets inside and not to use your bare hands if picking up a sick or injured animal is unavoidable.
Animals will not reject their young if they feel they have been handled by humans, but collecting wildlife is stressful for them and should be kept to a minimum. Call a rehabilitator before attempting to lift or move an animal.
If an animal must be handled, WildCare recommends keeping it in a warm, quiet area, preferably in a box lined with towels, pillowcases, T-shirts, or tissue paper.
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Report unknown illness or death
While the DNR does not provide any rehabilitation services, it does collect and track information online about wildlife that appears to be sick or dead for no apparent reason.
To keep humans, livestock, and wildlife safe, state officials must be aware of any emerging disease outbreaks. The department keeps track of these through an online reporting tool:
Investigators are interested in recurring deaths at the same location, individual deer with signs of chronic debilitating disease (emaciation, staggering or standing with poor posture, excessive salivation), individual deer with signs of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (death at or near loss of appetite and wariness, swelling around the head and neck, pink or bluish color of the mouth and tongue) and incidents involving threatened or endangered species.
Do not keep wildlife as pets
Wildlife is meant to be wild, and if a young animal habituates to humans, it cannot be reintroduced into the wild. Animals are also active and independent and can become destructive as they age.
It is illegal in Indiana to keep native wildlife without a permit for any reason. Most native species are protected by state and federal laws.
Karl Schneider is an environmental reporter for IndyStar. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @karlstartswithk
IndyStar’s environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the non-profit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.