Raptors are powerful and sensitive creatures. You should always contact a rehabilitator before attempting to help injured wildlife to prevent from injuring yourself or the animal. Wild animals need specific diets, and if they are dehydrated they will need to be rehydrated by a rehabilitator before eating solid foods. It is illegal to possess, own, or keep a raptor without the proper permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as your state's Division of Wildlife. Follow the below steps if you find an injured raptor in the wild.
- Is the raptor injured? Determine that in fact the raptor is injured: if the raptor does not fly away when it is approached by humans and it does not have food (raptors may not fly away from people if they are protecting their food or babies), look for any obvious broken bones, bleeding, or external parasites such as maggots or flies. You should NOT touch the raptor unless absolutely necessary. Ensure that it is safe from cars, cats, dogs, and other people. If it is in the road, you may have to move it to the side before it can be rescued (see below for how to handle a raptor).
- Who do I contact? You should contact the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, your states's Division of Wildlife or Department of Natural Resources, or a wildlife rehabilitator in your area for assistance. Visit the Wildlife International website for a full list of rehabilitators in your area.
- Should I care for the raptor? You want to contact the appropirate authorities as quickly as possible and protect the raptor from cats, dogs, and other animals until assistance has arrived (see below for how to handle a raptor if you have to transport it to a rehabilitator). You should NOT try to rehabilitate any animal on your own, as you may cause further damage or imprint upon the raptor.
How to Handle a Raptor to Transport to a Rehabilitator
Before you attempt to move a raptor be sure to have the following things ready: an old towel, thick work gloves, safety glasses, something to transport the bird in (cat or dog kennels work best, but a sturdy box will do). Visit the Wildlife International website for a full list of rehabilitators in your area.
- Put the towel over the bird, the darkness will calm the bird more.
- Wearing your gloves and safety glasses to protect you from their sharp beak and talons, gently take hold of the raptor by keeping the birds wings close to its body (unless the raptor has clearly suffered an injury to the wing), and keeping your hands out of reach of the raptors talons.
- Place the raptor inside the kennel or box. Ensure that the box has plenty of air holes for ventilation. It is best to have a box that is slightly bigger than the raptor, if it is too small the raptor can do serious damage to its feathers and wings and if it is too large it is possible for the raptor to hurt itself by thrashing around
- Keep the box in a dark safe place away from animals and children until it is time for it to be transported.
Click here to see what to do if you find a baby bird (diagram courtesy of Healers of the Wild: People Who Care for Injured and Orphaned Wildlife by Shannon K. Jacobs).