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Naturespeak: What to do if you find injured wildlife

Helping injured wildlife in our community is every citizen’s responsibility.
baby bird
Sick and injured birds need help to rehabilitate, but there are some guidelines everyone should follow to ensure their full recovery.

Helping injured wildlife in our community is every citizen’s responsibility. Injured, sick, and orphaned birds and mammals found in our community require volunteers to help them get to the designated wildlife rehabilitation centres in the Lower Mainland as quickly and safely as possible. 

If rehabilitation is successful, once fully recovered these animals can be released back into the wild. Sometimes, if an animal is too badly injured, euthanasia may be required to prevent further suffering. It is illegal for members of the public (including veterinary clinics and animal shelters) to hold wildlife for longer than 24 hours. 

The principal rehabilitation centres in our region are volunteer-driven, donor-funded, non-profit organizations. You can visit them online to learn more, or if you are interested in becoming a volunteer or making a donation. 

•OWL (Orphaned Wildlife) Rehabilitation Centre in Delta rehabilitates injured raptors (owls, eagles, hawks, etc.) and hosts tours and education programs.

•Critter Care Wildlife Society in Langley rehabilitates a variety of mammals from raccoons to skunks, bobcats and bears.

•The Wildlife Rescue Association of BC in Burnaby rehabilitates a wide variety of bird species, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

If you are out for a walk and come across injured wildlife—what do you do? Here are some helpful tips:

•Is the animal injured? First, observe the animal from a safe distance to look for signs of injury and illness. If the animal has been in the mouth of a dog or a cat, has obvious deformities or is showing abnormal behaviour, injury or illness is likely. Other signs to look for include: Bleeding, limping, weakness, disorientation, laboured breathing and thin body condition.

•Not all babies are injured wildlife! Baby animals are often mistakenly captured when, in fact, mom is not far away. Mothers will often leave their young to hunt or feed and return later in the day. DO NOT touch the baby animal, try to feed it, or take it with you unless instructed to do so by a licenced rehabilitator.

If you want to help sick and injured wildlife then clearly note the exact location. Bring your cell phone for your own safety and to facilitate reporting and getting assistance (i.e. drop a pin on a Google map, and take a photo of the location for reference).

Ensure your own safety first. Injured wildlife can be dangerous and may try to bite or scratch if they feel
threatened. Some wildlife can carry infectious diseases, so keep a safe distance until otherwise instructed.
NEVER handle bats (dead or alive) due to the risk of rabies.

If you are unsure about what to do, call the proper authorities for further instructions. 

For sick/injured birds and small mammals: Call the BC SPCA wildlife in distress hotline: 1-855-6BC-SPCA (1-855-622-7722). They will help you determine if the animal needs rescuing and will walk you through the necessary steps.

For large animals (bears, coyotes, cougars, etc.): Call the Whistler Conservation Officer Service: 1-877-952-7277

The rehabilitation centre may advise that the animal be captured and transported to one of the rehabilitation centres in the Lower Mainland. 

If you are able to perform this duty, the rehabilitators will walk you through the necessary steps to ensure your safety and to minimize stress and injury to the animal.

If you are unable to capture and transport the animal yourself, you can reach out to Sea to Sky Injured Wildlife Volunteer Network, a growing organization of volunteers (message @seatoskyinjured wildlife on Instagram or Facebook).

If you find dead animals roadside within Whistler call the Animal Control sector of Whistler Bylaw (604-935-8280). For Highway 99 from Horseshoe Bay to Function Junction, call DriveBC’s Report a Highway Problem: (1-866-918-1010).

For dead wild birds call 1-866-431-BIRD (2473). Several government agencies work together to investigate wild bird mortality.

The Sea to Sky Injured Wildlife Volunteer Network was created because members of the public often find injured wildlife but are not sure what to do or who to call. We are working to improve public knowledge in this area and provide resources and training for volunteers. 

This resource was developed by a collective of volunteer wildlife rescuers, and we always need more volunteers. Join our community on Facebook and Instagram (@seatoskyinjuredwildlife) to sign up.

Naturespeak is prepared by the Whistler Naturalists. To learn more about Whistler’s natural world, go to