Found an Animal?

Found an animal who may need help?

1. Does the animal really need help?

In general, if you can approach a wild animal and it does not run or fly away, it probably needs help. But before you intervene, please consider this:

Young birds leave the nest before they can fly. Birds are not taught to fly, rather they are simply pushed out of the nest and expected to work it out on their own, letting instinct take over. A young bird may be hopping around and appear to be injured (for example, flying up shakily and falling back down to the ground again), but chances are their parents are still taking care of it. Within one or two days a young bird will be flying with little trouble. It’s best to let the young birds work it out on their own and to leave them undisturbed.

Baby rabbits get visits from their mother only a few times a day. It is normal for them to spend long hours in a nest all by themselves. The nest is typically hidden under brush, bushes, or leaves.

Fawns, like rabbits, spend hours alone without their mother. Baby deer are best left alone. In the case of these babies, if they are not injured it is much better to leave them undisturbed while the parents take care of them.

2. Is it safe to rescue the animal?

If is it safe for you, it is all right to intervene if any wild animal is in imminent danger from cat or dog attacks, traffic, or other serious, immediate threats.

Do not put yourself at risk to rescue an animal. Don’t climb trees, crawl onto roofs, wade into deep water, cross busy streets, or otherwise put yourself in jeopardy. You will not do the animal any favors by getting yourself hurt.

Wild animals do not like being rescued. They consider action on your part as an attack and will fight back vigorously. Some can cause considerable harm with their teeth or claws. Some can transmit diseases. Rabies, for example, is always a concern with raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, coyotes and other carnivores.

3. Is there someone I can call for help?

In the District of Columbia, call City Wildlife at 202-882-1000. Our hours are 9am to 5pm, 7 days a week. For assistance after hours, call DC Animal Care and Control at 202-576-6664.

In Montgomery County, call 301-279-8000.

In Prince George’s County, call 301-499-8300.

In Northern Virginia, call the Wildlife Rescue League at 703-440-0800.


If you need to hold an animal for animal control officers:

  • Larger animals can be confined by putting a box or laundry basket over it and a weight on top of the box.
  • Smaller animals can be picked up with a towel or gloves and put in a box or paper bag.
  • Keep injured or orphaned animals in a warm, quiet and dark place, away from family pets and children. Resist the urge to check in on the animal often or disturb it in any way. An injured animal is a stressed animal and stress can easily be fatal.
  • Do not attempt to feed the animal or give it water. This often does more harm than good.
  • If you are transporting an animal in a box or bag (for small birds only), use paper towels or strips of newspaper for padding.
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