When the warmer weather hits, we humans aren’t the only ones who start venturing out more. Spring and summer are prime seasons for spotting wildlife as the animals emerge to find food and have babies, and it isn’t uncommon to see everything from wild turkeys and woodchucks to foxes and coyotes. Despite Nashville’s continued commercial and residential growth (and also because of it), wildlife is out and about in spades. (There was even a black bear spotted earlier this summer in South Nashville!)
While it’s exciting to uncover a nest of baby bunnies or happen upon deer grazing in a nearby field, what do we do when we find an animal that’s injured, abandoned, or in distress? Here are four local organizations you can call for help, plus tips for how to handle the situation.
Accepted animals: mammals such as opossums and raccoons, fledgling owls, hawks, and falcons, injured adult songbirds, and baby mourning doves.
What to do: Call or text (615) 266-5701
More info: harmonywildlife.org
Located right here in Music City, Harmony Wildlife provides a temporary place for at-risk wildlife to mature or recover before being re-released in the wild. The organization is also an excellent resource for the proper steps to take if you’ve found an animal needing care, such as baby rabbits and songbirds. Step-by-step instructions take you through everything you need to know as you await professional help — from what to do with a fallen bird’s nest to protecting yourself if you’re attempting to rescue an injured or sick mammal.
Nashville Wildlife Conservation Center
Accepted animals: reptiles, amphibians, opossums, and small native birds
What to do: Call or text (615) 270-9009. Include the exact address or location you rescued the animal from, along with a picture.
More info: nashvillewildlifeconservation.org
The Nashville Wildlife Conservation Center (NWCC) is all about promoting a symbiotic relationship between humans and nature. A nonprofit wildlife hospital, the NWCC focuses its resources on wildlife rehabilitation education and research and readying animals to be re-released into their natural habitats. Most of the injured animal patients admitted to the NWCC hospital have been hit by a car or lawnmower or attacked by a domestic pet, and you are encouraged to reach out if you find an injured, sick, or orphaned animal. Due to limited space and resources, they only accept a small roster of critters and native birds.
With a facility in Joelton, Walden’s Puddle is one of Nashville’s best-known resources for animal rehabilitation. They’ve admitted, rehabilitated, and released everything from moles and groundhogs to red foxes and coyotes. While they can no longer take in bats (due to Tennessee law), you can call them for most other birds and small wildlife. The Walden’s Puddle website is also a reliable source for instructions and wildlife-related guidance, whether you’re pondering how to prepare sugar water for hummingbirds or figuring out what to feed a baby squirrel until you can get it to a licensed rehabilitator.
Ziggy’s Tree Wildlife Rehab
Operating out of two different locations — an avian (bird) facility in North Franklin County and a small mammal facility near Murfreesboro — Ziggy’s has been an official nonprofit since 2010. Inspired by an overwhelming need for local wildlife care and conservation, the organization offers services and education to the Middle Tennessee area. Caring for roughly 1,000 animals yearly, they specialize in newborn mammals and songbirds. They are, however, licensed to take in larger birds such as hawks, owls, and geese. They provide care seven days a week, 52 weeks per year.
Found an animal who might need help? Here’s what you should do.
While all of the rehabilitation center websites offer up helpful advice on what to do if you find an animal in need of care, the Nashville Wildlife Conservation Center has great tips on what to do before removing an animal from its natural environment:
You should take action by contacting a wildlife rehabilitation center if:
- The animal is bleeding.
- The animal is missing whole or part of a limb(s) or cannot use its limb(s).
- The animal looks underweight.
- The animal is leaning, circling, losing balance, appears tame, is unresponsive, may be blind, has stiffening or twitching limbs, or has rapid eye movement.
- The animal has discharge from the eyes, nose, ears, or mouth.
- The animal has a foreign object or substance stuck to a body part, such as a plastic jar or grease.
- The parents have been killed or seriously injured.
- The animal is covered with flies, ants, or other parasites.
You should hold off while you further observe if:
- The animal is moving periodically. You will need to do this from a distance.
- The animal is eating. If so, it may be reluctant to leave its food. This is normal behavior.
- It’s a young animal. It may be out of the nest or den and exploring its environment while still being cared for by its parents. Check for parents you can see or hear nearby.
- A wild animal’s best chance of survival is to be raised by its parents in the wild.
State and federal laws do not allow for any protected wildlife in our possession (even temporarily) unless an injured animal is transported for medical attention. If you have contacted a rehabilitation center and determined that you need to transport an animal, follow these steps:
While transporting wildlife, remember:
- Whisper or speak quietly.
- Do not play your car radio.
- Do not transport an animal in a person’s lap, unboxed or unrestrained. The animal can get loose and cause injury or damage.
- If you are transporting a baby, keep the inside of the vehicle warm.
- Do not make additional stops.
While waiting for a return phone call or email from the wildlife rehabilitators listed above, you can visit Animal Help Now for assistance. Additionally, you can look for other nearby organizations via the TWRA permitted wildlife rehabilitators list. Be sure to leave a message for any wildlife rehabilitator you reach out to, and follow up with a text message if possible!
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