If you see injured or apparently abandoned wildlife, your natural instinct to help is understandable. However, numerous animals are unnecessarily brought to rehabilitation centers and game wardens every year by well-meaning civilians. When you see injured wildlife, you should assess whether or not it really needs assistance, and then you should call for help. Wildlife rehabilitation staff are specially trained, and they will know what to do with the animal.
In the instance of an animal which is obviously bleeding or shivering, the animal may need help. This is also true of animals with broken limbs or animals whom you know to be orphans. Animals injured by pets like cats and dogs may also require assistance. In these instances, you should call a wildlife rehabilitation center or your local department of game to talk to someone with experience. If the animal really does need help, the rehabilitation center may send someone to pick it up, or ask you to transport it, and they will give very precise directions.
In all cases, you should remember that injured wildlife is often in shock, and very scared. As a result, the animal may appear to be docile, but the animal's mood could change in an instant. Animals can still bite, kick, and scratch when they are injured, and you should avoid handling injured wildlife, if possible. If you do need to handle an animal, wear gloves, move slowly, and speak in a low voice so that the animal will be less frightened. If you are bitten, report the bite, as some animals carry rabies.
Orphaned wildlife may also need human assistance, but it is hard to tell when an animal is really orphaned. Many animal parents leave their young in a secure place while they search for food, so an “abandoned” fawn might be perfectly content, for example, or a nest of screaming chicks might have a parent in the vicinity. Before assuming that wildlife has been orphaned, you should check for signs of injury, and you may want to leave and come back in several hours to see if the animal is still there, as the animal's parent may be shy about approaching while you are there.
It can help to know who to call about injured wildlife before you encounter a sick or hurt animal. Your phonebook probably has listings of local wildlife rehabilitation centers, along with hotlines to report injured wildlife, and you may want to keep these numbers in a handy spot so that you know where to find them when you need them. If you want to help injured wildlife more directly, consider volunteering with one of these organizations; this way, you can learn to care for injured wildlife under supervision.