Found an orphaned/injured wild animal? Here’s why you should take it to a wildlife rehabilitator.

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Orphaned nestling American Robin, hungry.

It’s adorable, and it needs you. That’s an incredibly potent combination, and it does not make you want to take the animal to some strangers and leave it in their clinically-gloved hands. You have food, you have water—surely you can take care of this lost wild creature just as well as some rehabilitators, and with more love, too!

The problem here isn’t just the things you don’t know about wild animal care—it’s the things you don’t know that you don’t know. You will be a bad caretaker for this animal, no matter how much you love it, because you won’t know the things it may need. If you haven’t been inside a wildlife rehab facility, it’s hard to appreciate all the things that they do that your average person simply doesn’t have the knowledge or resources for.

Based on my experiences volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation hospital, here are a few of the things that a wildlife rehabilitator may be able to do for that wild animal you just found.

Supportive medical care

A quick dose of pain medication will rapidly reduce the animal’s anxiety and suffering. Administration of subcutaneous fluids helps dehydrated animals feel immediately better. Even if apparently administered dispassionately (although trust me, the vets and vet techs do care deeply about the animals), these treatments are love the animal can feel.

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Damaged feet, but still hopping

Juncos use their feet more than many birds, not just to perch but to hop about while feeding. Their legs and feet, viewed close, are a contradiction: incredibly slender and fragile-seeming, but also covered in a hard, scaly, tough surface. You hope for their sake that the fragility is the illusion and the toughness reality, but of course each is a little true.

LANK has a permanently bent toe on his right foot. When he perches, his weight rests on what should be the top of the toe, and I imagine the same is true when he stands on the ground.

LANK

LANK

The bent toe is the left-most top toe on his right foot

The bent toe is the left-most top toe on his right foot.

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View from the other side, for comparison with his healthy left foot.

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