Wareham wildlife talk offers tips on helping injured animals

Feb 7, 2019

When a wild animal suffers a busted wing or a broken beak, the Cape Wildlife Center is there to help. However, it’s residents who often serve as first responders, alerting the Barnstable-based veterinary hospital when an animal is in need.

On Thursday, the center’s Executive Director Zak Mertz offered tips on what to do if an injured animal is found.

Mertz spoke to roughly 50 people at the Wareham Free Library. The talk, presented by the Wareham Department of Natural Resources, spelled out what steps to take when encountering an injured animal. Last year, the center treated 2,300 animals, ranging from turtles that weigh 5 grams to 13-pound turkeys, said Mertz. He noted once winter ends, the center sees a spike in patients.

“As soon as spring hits things go crazy all over the place,” said Mertz.

He dispelled myths, like the one that says a mother bird will ignore its young if handled by a human (they won’t), and spoke about what to do if you come across an animal in distress.

Many wild animals that appear to be in need often are not, he said. It’s important for people to first observe the animal for 15 to 20 minutes before taking action if there are no obvious signs of trauma.

More often than not, if the animal is young, it’s mother is nearby and doesn’t require assistance. However, if an animal is obviously injured or appears very young, Mertz said it’s important to call authorities before taking action. They include center staff, the Wareham Department of Natural Resources or the town’s animal control officer.

In the case of baby birds, he noted that it’s normal for fledglings - young birds that recently left the nest - to be found on the ground. But if a bird is a nestling - meaning it’s sparsely feathered and is incapable of moving on its own - its nest is often nearby and requires assistance. Mertz said it’s safe for people to place fledglings back in the nest if found.

If the bird is injured, it’s parents are dead or the nest can’t be found, the best course of action is to bring it to a wildlife rehabilitator. He stressed that the majority of “abandoned” birds are healthy fledglings that don’t require assistance.

For larger animals that may need help, he said to keep a safe distance and notify officials. The center, he said, is well-equipped for the job.

If you find an injured wild animal, call the center, which is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, at 508-362-0111. The Wareham Department of Natural Resources can be reached at: 508-291-3100 ext. 3180.