1. Home  
  2. Agriculture, environment and natural resources  
  3. Wildlife  
  4. Living with Wildlife  
  5. Rescuing an injured or sick wild animal

Rescuing an injured or sick wild animal

Intervention when finding an injured or sick wild animal is not recommended. Instead, let Nature take its course.

Intervention should only be performed by trained personnel and only when the injured or sick animal is found in a location that poses a safety risk to people or pets.

Helping an injured or sick wild animal

The death of an injured or sick animal is part of a natural process in which humans should not interfere. Many animals have a short life expectancy in the wild. They rarely die of old age. Common causes of wildlife death include predation, road accidents, starvation and disease.

The death of an animal is often beneficial, even essential, for other living organisms. For example, many predators rely on prey to feed their young and ensure their survival.

If the injured or sick animal is on your property and is a small animal that is not likely to bite or injure you, such as a small bird, intervention by you is possible.

Ensure that the wild animal is actually injured or sick

If you wish to report or assist an animal that appears to be injured or sick, first try to determine whether this is in fact the case. Avoid getting too close and do not handle it. Wild animals can be unpredictable.

The most common signs that an animal is injured or sick are:

  • A wound, bleeding or other obvious injury;
  • Difficulty breathing, rasping;
  • Runny eyes or nostrils, eyelids stuck closed;
  • Difficulty moving around, standing up or holding the head upright;
  • Fatigue or marked despondency;
  • Soiled fur or feathers around the anus;
  • Bare areas of skin without fur or feathers;
  • For birds, inability to fly and/or a hanging wing.

An injured or sick animal should not be confused with a young animal that is hidden in the bushes or grass waiting for its parents to return. Many species leave their young unattended between feeding times. Consult the page Intervene with an orphaned wild animal (in French) provides more information on this subject.

Before helping a wild animal

Before you consider taking an injured or sick wild animal to a veterinary clinic or rehabilitation centre, check with them to see if they have room for it. You are responsible for any costs incurred (e.g., euthanasia).

If the animal's condition is deteriorating, and it is of a species not likely to injure you nor subject to mandatory reporting (e.g., a bird that hit a window), you are permitted to capture it and take it to a rehabilitation centre or have it euthanized by a veterinarian, although this is not recommended. Some animals may not be moved over long distances Read the content of the note 1 . Be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards when capturing or handling wild animals.

What to do with an injured or sick wild animal

If the animal is subject to mandatory reporting, such as a white-tailed deer, you are required to report it to SOS Poaching – Wildlife EmergencyCapturing an animal that is subject to mandatory reporting is prohibited, even for the purpose of taking it to a rehabilitation centre. Only wildlife officers are authorized to do this.

If you are near an injured or sick animal, you should follow these safety guidelines:

  • Keep pets away to reduce stress and avoid disease transmission;
  • Avoid staying close to the wild animal so as not to stress it further;
  • Avoid handling the animal, especially with your bare hands. The animal could injure you or transmit a disease, even if it looks healthy. Many animals can be dangerous to human health. For example, deer may head-butt, herons may peck, and a lick from a baby raccoon could infect humans with rabies;
  • Teach children to follow these guidelines. If they come into contact with a wild animal, they should learn to call an adult immediately.

What to do in case of contact

If you have been bitten, scratched or come in contact with the saliva of a wild animal, whether it is apparently healthy or sick, injured or dead, you should:

  • Clean the wound, even if it is minor, with soap and water for 10 to 15 minutes;
  • Quickly contact Info-Santé 811 to get appropriate medical assistance.

If your pet has been in contact with or bitten by a wild animal, seek prompt veterinary care. The veterinarian will assess the risk of transmission of certain diseases that occur in wild animals (e.g., rabies, distemper, leptospirosis, etc.) and advise you on what action to take.

  • Footer note number 1
    Moving certain animals such as raccoons, striped skunks, white-tailed deer and wild canidae more than 75 kilometres from their place of discovery, or from the south shore to the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, is prohibited. This applies particularly to transporting an orphaned, injured or sick animal to a rehabilitation centre. Back to the reference of the note 1

Last update: January 8, 2024


Was the information on this page useful to you?
General notice

You have questions or require additional information?

Please contact Services Québec