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Saving Wildlife by Letting Them Go

Two cubs at the Wildlife Center of Virginia
Two cubs at the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

When a wild animal is sick or injured, human intervention can sometimes be the difference between life or death. Rescuing an owl, rabbit or turtle from danger can be a memorable and gratifying experience for its human heroes, but the ultimate goal is always to return the animal to its natural environment.

Reaching this goal is usually not up to just one person. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it can take a village to see an animal through its worst days and back to freedom. From the person who discovers a creature in need, to the professionals who ensure its readiness to return to the natural habitat, everyone plays an important part.

If you find a wild animal that seems sick, injured or orphaned, your first step is to determine whether you should intervene. An adult animal may feel threatened and become dangerously aggressive. A baby deer that looks abandoned might have a mother around the corner, and a juvenile squirrel might be perfectly fine on its own.

Once you have decided to take action, it’s time to call a wildlife rehabilitator. These are people who are specially trained and licensed to handle a variety of species and circumstances. They can give immediate advice over the phone, help you to safely remove the animal from danger and, if necessary, make arrangements for it to be transported for additional care.

If the animal needs medical attention, the wildlife rehabilitator will contact local veterinarians who are trained in medical care for wild animals. If it needs more than what the local vets can do, it might make the trip to a veterinary hospital like The Wildlife Center of Virginia.

At the hospital, a team of veterinarians, veterinary technicians and wildlife rehabilitators collaborate to guide the animal through its treatment until it is strong enough to leave. Just like our human hospitals, they are equipped for everything from sedation to X-rays to complicated surgeries. Trained volunteers help to make sure the animals are contained, comfortable and well fed. 

As the animal heals, the staff will be watching for signs that it’s ready to be released back into its natural habitat. When it can once again move, hunt and hide in the usual ways, it’s ready to go.

Learn more about how and when to intervene when an animal is sick or injured. You might be the one to save its life! 


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