First of all, we highly recommend all wildlife-conscious people carry a couple of wildlife rehabilitator phone numbers in their phones at all times. That way if you’re the person on the scene of a wildlife-vehicle collision (WVC), or you’re faced with an orphaned or injured animal in someone’s backyard, you have resources at your fingertips and you know whom to call. Here’s how to find a wildlife rehabilitator in your area.
How wildlife rehabilitators help injured animals
Wildlife rehabilitators are specially trained, educated and licensed professionals working in partnership with a licensed veterinarian to care for sick, orphaned or injured animals and helping them return to their natural environment. Through wildlife rehabilitation, the animals receive appropriate nourishment for their species as well as medical care in an environment that meets certain standards. Depending on your area, a wildlife rehabilitator may only accept certain types of animals and may refer you to another organization for assistance with other species. But a wildlife rehabilitation center is a great place to start. Otherwise, it is often the state game commission or department of fisheries and wildlife that has oversight of animal removal and assistance on the roads. If you have trouble getting through to someone, anyone—People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has a number you can call and they'll support you in finding a resource: (757) 622-PETA.
Wildlife rehabilitator stabilizes an Eagle-owl
Sarinahornay [CC BY-SA 3.0]
Should you stop if you hit an animal?
Yes, absolutely! Some states even have laws about leaving the scene of a WVC (often referring to livestock, dogs and horses) so it's always good to pull over, and either back up your car to the scene of the accident, or get out of your car and approach when it appears safe—whether from vehicular traffic or from the animal's reaction. An animal in fear or distress, such as a deer, could kick you, and many small animals bite and scratch and carry rabies.
If it is a baby animal, be extremely cautious exiting your car and approaching as its angry and protective parents are most likely near by. This is the time to call for help!
If the animal is approachable and injured, it is fine to cover the animal with a blanket for comfort from cold and shock. You can also place something gently over the animal's head to help calm it as vision and sensory input will add to its fear and panic. Do NOT touch the animal with your bare hands. Find something (great idea to always carry a blanket or towel of some sort in your trunk) to cover it with and/or use the blanket to help move the animal off the roadway so it is not put in further danger of being hit.
After you have gotten through to a wildlife rehabilitator or the game commission for your state and region, they'll advise you further on what to do. If possible, remain with the animal, which will likely be in pain and terrified. Staying with the animal can help prevent further road traffic from hitting it and can also keep predators away.
Michelle Buntin [Public domain]
What if I hit and killed a small animal on the road?