The world is full of generous people who are looking for opportunities to respond with help in times of crisis. As a licensed wildlife rehabilitator I often have Good Samaritans who transport sick of injured wildlife to our clinic for triage and medical care. Most of these Good Samaritan’s natural tendency is to act immediately and as a consequence show up at our front door without calling first to consult with us on how to safely handle these sick or injured animals.
Remember, that any injured animal can be dangerous and may inflict harm to a first responder because they are in pain and very scared. They have no real malicious intent, but are reacting out of instinct. Animals can be difficult to read, and when they are in discomfort they will act irrationally.
One of the most common wild species brought into our clinic are birds of prey. Birds of prey include hawks, falcons, owls, eagles, etc. These are beautiful, majestic animals, but if not handled appropriately will cause serious injury. The most dangerous part of a raptor is its talons. These needle sharp weapons are designed for grasping and penetrating vital organs allowing the bird to kill and eat its prey. Very few raptors with injure with their beak but if given the opportunity they will grab you with their talons and can inflict serious injury. The best course of action is to not ever touch an injured bird of prey, try scooping them up in a box to transport them to the nearest veterinary clinic.
Another potentially dangerous avian species are herons. In contrast to raptors, the most dangerous part of a heron is the beak. These long sharp instruments are used by the bird to kill prey and can inflict serious damage to a first responder, especially in the eye. Herons have very good aim and if you do not protect your eyes the bird can penetrate your eye with one very quick thrust of the beak.
Any carnivore such as a coyote, or fox, or an omnivore such as a raccoon is guaranteed to bite you if given the chance. In addition to serious wounds, any one of these animals may also carry rabies, so be especially vigilant if you have any contact with them.
Large herbivores such as elk and deer should also be approached with extreme caution; they will strike with their front feet which can result in a serious skull fracture. Be especially careful with antlered buck deer or bull elk. Antlers are dangerous weapons; these animals use them to fight large carnivores and are very good at defending themselves.
If you are responding to an injured wild animal please follow these simple safety tips and call a local veterinary clinic and ask the advice of an attending veterinarian before acting. If you are unsure at all, you are much better off to wait and call for help from an experienced professional before approaching a sick or injured animal.