Sick or Injured Wildlife

It is illegal to care for sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife in Illinois unless you have a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Individuals with wildlife rehabilitator permits may assist injured wildlife if necessary. Wildlife rehabilitators should not be expected to have the resources (finances and facility) or experience to successfully treat all species of Illinois wildlife.

You should not attempt to assist an animal if there is a risk to personal safety or to the safety of others. If rabies is suspected, call the local animal control agency so that the animal can be captured and tested.

If you have been bitten by a wild animal, seek medical attention immediately. Your health care provider can assess your risk for rabies exposure and can administer shots if needed.

Sick or Injured Mammal

Wild animals are usually very good at hiding that they are sick. However, there are obvious signs that an animal is sick or injured:
  • Limping
  • Obvious wounds or bleeding
  • Problems standing or an inability to stand
  • Trouble holding the head up
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sluggishness; not moving away when approached
  • Appearing unable to see or react to stimuli
  • Being emaciated
  • Excessive patches of missing fur or scabby skin
  • Drooling
  • Excessive urination or fecal staining on the rear end
  • Signs of brain damage, such as seizures or walking in circles
An animal with any of these conditions should only be approached by trained individuals. If you want to help the animal, do not try to handle the animal yourself; call a wildlife rehabilitator for advice. If you find multiple dead animals on your property, CONTACT the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. On the form list the type and number of dead animals and the location.

Injured Deer

Call the local police department (nonemergency number) if a deer has been severely injured in a vehicle collision. Be aware that the police department may not respond if the deer is still capable of walking. A deer that is injured but capable of walking may recover even from a fairly severe collision. Broken and fractured bones will heal on their own. For a severely injured deer that cannot walk, it is usually safer and kinder to humanely kill it than to expose it to the additional stress of capture, restraint, and treatment. Many times fatal internal bleeding and organ damage are not apparent while the deer is alive. Never chase an injured deer, especially near roads. Chasing an injured deer without a way to chemically immobilize or restrain the animal only puts the deer and the public in danger. The local public works or roads department handles the removal of deer carcasses along roadways.

Injured Bird

Birds are expert at hiding signs of sickness or injury. Any bird displaying the signs below may not be healthy.
  • Makes no attempt to fly away when approached
  • Sits in the same spot for long periods of time with its feathers puffed out (except during the winter, when this is normal behavior)
  • Has trouble flying
  • Flops around on the ground with an injured wing or leg (Watch for other signs as well, since some birds, like Killdeer, will pretend to be injured to lead predators away from their eggs or young)
  • Has trouble swimming (ducks or geese)
  • Has obvious wounds or bleeding
  • Has difficulty breathing
  • Has difficulty keeping head erect
  • Shows fecal staining around vent
Birds of prey (hawks, falcons, eagles, and owls) and large wading birds (herons and egrets) should not be handled by the public because they can cause very serious injury. For help for other birds, call a wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. Note that not all rehabilitators are licensed to care for birds. If you find multiple dead birds on your property, CONTACT the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. On the form list the type and number of dead birds and the location.

Injured Canada Goose

If the goose has an injured leg or foot, leave it alone. If the goose has an injured wing, contact a wildlife rehabilitator licensed to care for birds.