You're in the park, or perhaps hiking down a mountain, and you see a wildlife animal that appears to be injured. What should you do? This article aims to give you some guidance in these tough situations.
Should You Help Injured Wildlife?
First Observe, Then Act
First off, before even approaching the wildlife animal, you should observe. Is the wildlife animal even injured? Sometimes animals do strange things, or are just relaxing alone, when really they are not injured. Observation is key here, to determine whether the animal is actually injured, and what caused the injury.
For example, rabid raccoons (rabies, a super dangerous virus) may be slightly paralyzed, and you don't want to just run off and approach it- risking getting rabies yourself. OBSERVE and determine the cause- if any- before making any quick decisions.
"Danger animals" are animals that may be harmful to your safety and those around you. These include but are not limited to raccoons, skunks, and bears. This also includes large mammals, such as deer. While almost all deer won't be aggressive towards humans, if it is injured it may be in an aggressive state. If it's an animal large enough to hurt you- stay away. Getting hurt yourself won't help the wildlife animal or yourself!
Also remember what it feels like to be in pain. When you're hurt you are cranky, upset, and more readily violent. The same is true for wildlife animals. All because a little duck looks cute and soft doesn't mean it will actually be. It may perceive you as a threat and so attack you when you approach it. These animals do not know that you have only good intentions!
Avoid "adult" animals as well. Animals that just look older may simply be dying of natural causes, and tend to be a bit more aggressive. Adult animals are more prone to disease (such as rabies), so avoid adult animals that are injured.
If the injured wildlife animal in question hits any of those barriers, call a wildlife expert immediately. If not, read on..
Natural vs. Non-Natural
If the injured wildlife animal is non-threatening, now you must determine whether the injury is natural or not. Bites, predators, falls, deformations, and sickness are unfortunately natural causes of death in the wild.
In the event of a "natural" injury, you should let the wildlife animal be. Attempting to help the wildlife animal will likely not do any good, instead let the animal die quicker and more peacefully. A predator will soon eat the wildlife animal too, thus continuing the cycle of life and balance in nature.
A non-natural injury is harm caused by human error. These include but aren't limited to: car accidents, chemicals, oils, spills, pollution, etc.
If you see an animal affected by a non-natural injury, call a wildlife expert immediately. In cases such as chemicals and oil spills, it is critical to get experts out in the field immediately so they can prevent the loss of damage and negative ecosystem changes. Again, don't try to intervene- instead get an expert, and let them know that there's an issue out in the wild.
Human Prevention Simply Doesn't Work
The cold, hard truth is that unfortunately human prevention usually does little to no good. In fact, it can actually cause harm and disruptions in the ecosystem and environment. Some experts believe that in some habitats, only about 50% of baby birds will survive into adulthood. The rest become prey for other animals and continue the balance of nature.
Scientists have also observed that handling wildlife animals almost immediately causes them to be rejected by their group or pack. The cause could be human scent (or chemical scent from our healing products/soaps, etc.) or it could be changes in animal behavior. While the cause isn't clearly known, it is well known that animals that have been taken away from their natural habitat to be rehabilitated by humans rarely can re-adapt to their environment fully. They starve, get eaten by a predator, and get rejected by their animal group.
Animals such as bunnies and birds will in some cases almost instantly reject those touched by humans!
The sad truth is that putting a wildlife animal after healing it the human way usually just prolongs death and increases suffering. At the end of the day, animals injured naturally were meant to become sustenance towards the next. Such is the cruel cycle of nature.
Public Parks & Wildlife
In large public parks such as Yellowstone, it is strictly forbidden to scare, interfere, and even HELP wildlife animals. Large fines have been issued to those who have helped or fed wildlife animals.
This is because it's the natural cycle of life in the wild. Nature balances itself, and it's how the ecosystem as a whole thrives. The cat eats the mouse, and the cat gets eaten by the wolf- which later gets eaten by the bear. When the bear dies, it gets decomposed by bacteria and birds, which later get eaten by larger animals. The cycle continues infinitely, and it requires balance.
Even if it were possible to heal every wildlife animal, doing so may cause disruptions in the ecosystems hurting the initial animal species we were helping! Nature works in terms of balance and flow, and it's best not to interfere with this.
At the end of the day, try not to project human values and morals onto the entirety of nature. We humans like to help each other, and it's how we've survived. It's very hard witnessing and understanding the cruel cycle of nature, but at the end of the day, if you see an injured wildlife animal through natural causes, it's best to let it be. Maybe it will heal on its own, and maybe it's destined to pass away too early. Don't disrupt nature- it will likely cause more harm than good anyways, if you can even make a difference.
We will add again that if a wildlife animal is hurt by non-natural causes, you should inform an expert immediately. Doing so could prevent the injury of many more wildlife animals (for ex. "chemicals, pollution") and restore the natural balance of the ecosystem.
We hope you enjoyed this read, and make sure to let us know what you think. Thanks!!
-Wildlife X Team International