First Question: Does the animal need to be rescued?

If you are uncertain, observe it first. Leave it for a while and check back later.

Many animals are perfectly fine and just resting, especially babies. Watch it to see if it responds to its environment and if it can walk or fly. Unlike human babies, wild babies are not constantly watched by their parents. They spend a large amount of time alone. This is especially true for baby rabbits and squirrels.  

If you find a bat, fox, raccoon, skunk, or woodchuck, DO NOT TOUCH. 

These species can carry rabies and are called RVS, for rabies vector species.

 The RI Department of Environmental Management is required by law to direct WRARI to euthanize RVS if you fail to follow this guidance. Call us on the Wildlife Hotline (401) 294-6363 or the DEM at (401) 222-3070.

If you find a wild bird, mammal, or reptile, see below for more information.

Please note is illegal to take a wild animal into your home and keep it as a pet or care for and release it unless you are a licensed rehabilitator. It is also illegal to move a wild bird or mammal across state lines. 

Second question: 

Can I keep it? ​No

Not only is it illegal to keep wild animals, but they require specialized care.

The results are often disastrous, ranging from growth deformities to severe stress and infections, as well as behavior problems that make the animal unreleasable including imprinting on people and lack of fear. 



Species commonly rehabilitated in Rhode Island include songbirds (robins, cardinals), bluejays, crows, seagulls, raptors, ducks and waterbirds (cormorants, herons.)
Baby Birds

If you find an orphaned baby bird that is out of its nest, replace it immediately as long as it does not appear injured.


If the nest cannot be found, the baby needs to be rescued. Call the Wildife Hotline for guidance. 

Rescue or re-nest?

Do not re-nest the baby if it appears to be injured, the bird feels cold to touch, the nest was attacked by a predator, you cannot reach the nest, or the baby had any contact with a cat or dog. 

(Mammals can reject their babies if they smell a human scent on their babies but this is not the case with birds.)

To replace a downed nest

  • Wedge it back into the place it originally occupied or in a space as close as possible. 

  • Make sure all the babies appear alert and uninjured and warm.

  • Often, when nests come down in a storm, the babies will be wet and cold. If the babies feel cold to the touch, intervention is necessary. 

If you do need to bring a baby bird to us:

  • Place the baby bird on a bunched T-shirt and keep it in a warm, quiet, dark place such as a shoebox placed in an unoccupied room in your house

  • Call the Wildlife Hotline to make arrangements to bring the baby to a licensed rehabilitator.

  • Do not give food or water unless directed to do so.

  • If the bird is cold, place a hot water bottle beneath it.

Fledgling birds

Many birds are unable to fly when they first leave the nest. 


Healthy fledgling birds that have left the nest are mostly feathered, alert and can hop a bit. The parents continue to feed them while they are on the ground.

For fledglings it is best not to intervene. Unless the bird is in harm's way or clearly injured, please watch from afar (preferably a window) for at least 30 minutes to give the mother time to reunite with her young.


It is imperative to keep cats indoors at this time, as the babies have no defense and are unable to get away.  Adult birds have been killed by cats in their attempt to protect their babies.

If a fledgling bird is in the road or in an unsafe place, gently move to the side of the road or nearby safety.  NEVER move a baby any distance since they will starve if the parent birds cannot find them. Then monitor to be certain that the parents know where it is to prevent starvation

You can help fledging birds survive by not trimming bushes or trees during nesting season (May-August).

Injured Adult Birds

If the bird exhibits any of the following signs, it needs help and you should carefully capture the bird and call the Wildlife Clinic for next steps:

  •  Does not fly away for over 30 min - such as on the road or in the same place on the ground for an extended amount of time

  • Lying on its side or back

  • Has an obvious injury, like a wing drooping or blood visible

  • Is in a dangerous place, like a sidewalk or road

  • Looks huddled and “fluffed up” with its head tucked under a wing                                          

  • Known cat or dog attack (even if it can still fly)  

How to catch an injured adult bird

  • Take care because no wild bird wants to be caught and it will resist capture with its beak, wings, and nails/talons

  • Use a towel to cover the bird, especially the head for water birds, gulls, and raptors to protect yourself form their beaks

  • Gently place the bird in a box with a soft clean cloth or folded T-shirt. Make certain that there is sufficient air ventilation by poking holes in the lid or sides prior to placing the bird inside.  

  • Keep box in a quiet area, away from pets and people to reduce stress

  • Once you have captured an adult bird, avoid further contact. Do not attempt to feed or give water.  

  • Call the Wildlife Clinic for next steps ​


The most common species found in Rhode Island are Eastern cottontail rabbits, Virgina opposums, and Eastern grey squirrels.

If you find a bat, fox, raccoon, skunk, or woodchuck, DO NOT TOUCH. 

These species can carry rabies.

 The RI Department of Environmental Management is required by law to direct WRARI to euthanize the animal if you fail to follow this guidance. Call us on the Wildlife Hotline (401) 294-6363 or the DEM at (401) 222-3070.

Baby mammals

Never touch a baby mammal because the mother can smell you on her babies and could abandon them because of it.

  • If the baby is injured or is in immediate danger and must be moved, please put gloves on before handling.

  • Sometimes baby mammals with their eyes closed will accidentally stray from the nest. This does not mean that they are lost or in danger. Watch from afar and give the mother at least 3 hours to reunite with her baby, since mammals do not tend to their babies as often as birds do.

  • Baby mammals that have been attacked by pets should be rescued as soon as possible.

  • Place the baby in a box on a clean towel or T-shirt. 

  • Do not attempt to feed or give water. 

  • Place the box on top of a heating pad set on LOW. You can also fill a water bottle with HOT water and place beneath the material next to the babies.  If transporting, make certain the bottle cannot roll onto the babies and injure them.

  • If you uncover a rabbit’s nest, check to see that none of the babies is injured.  Avoid handling them and recover with the nesting material after checking.  If any babies are injured or clearly weak, call the Wildlife Hotline.

  • Do not move the nest as the mother will not return. 

  • To determine if the babies are orphaned (dead adult), place pieces of string or yarn in a crisscross pattern over the nest. These will be displaced in the morning if the mother has returned.  Another option is to sprinkle flour in a ring around the nest. Rabbit prints will be visible after the mother makes her visit.

  • Baby rabbits generally leave the nest and are on their own by around 25 days old.  They are extremely vulnerable to pet attacks at this early age so monitor the situation carefully until the babies move on.

  • If you are concerned about your pets attacking a rabbit nest, cover the nest when your pets are outside ONLY, making certain to uncover before dark.  If you do not uncover the nest, the mother will be unable to feed them.

Baby Squirrels
  • Cats who are allowed to roam freely often bring home baby squirrels

  • Baby squirrels are often found alone and wandering, especially tree squirrels that have fallen to the ground

  • Baby squirrels will approach humans and will sometimes climb on a leg.

  • Tree squirrels are also found in attics and also when their nests are cut down along with a tree.

Baby Oppossums
  • Since they are scavengers, mother opossums are continually on the move to find food.

  • The babies, which cling to the mother’s fur as she moves, can occasionally fall off.  

Baby Rabbits

Rabbits nest in shallow depressions in some unlikely places, like the middle of a yard, in a garden and even in large flowerpots.  The nests are constructed with grass, hay and rabbit fur from the mother’s chest.  The mother does not remain in the nest, but visits one or two times IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. 

Injured adult mammals
To help an injured mammal (Note: this applies ONLY to non- rabies vector species such as otters, rabbits, rodents, squirrels, and weasels.)
  • Have a suitable container ready. 

  • Assess the situation for any possible danger to yourself before attempting capture. 

  • Anticipate the animal’s escape route!  Badly injured animals will still attempt to get away as they perceive you as a predator.  Approach an animal that is near or in a road with the thought of moving them AWAY from the road and not toward traffic.

  • Cover the animal with a heavy towel or folded cloth and gently place in a box or carrier. 

Animals initially in shock due to an injury or trauma may revive and attempt escape. Do not transport the animal in your car unless it is safely contained. 

Once the animal is safely contained, we recommend the following:

  • Do not give any food or water.

  • If the animal is debilitated, you can place a warm water bottle in the container beside it to treat for shock.

  • Call the Wildlife Clinic Hotline (401) 294-6363 to make arrangements for care.

  • Avoid constant peeking and checking. 

  • Keep pets and children away. 

  • If the animal is found in the evening and cannot be brought to a rehabilitator immediately, bring the box or container INSIDE so that other animals do not attack at night.  

  • While transporting, keep the radio off and conversation to a minimum.

  • Any animal that has been attacked by a cat or dog should be seen at the Wildlife Clinic or by a rehabilitator, as they may require antibiotics for any bites or scratched. 


Reptiles and Amphibians 

Reptiles commonly found injured in Rhode Island include turtles (snapping, box, painted, wood), and snakes (rat snakes, garter snakes.)  Amphibians include red-backed salamanders and wood frogs.
If you find an injured RVS mammal (RVS stands for rabies vector species) DO NOT TOUCH. This includes bats, foxes, raccoons, skunks, and woodchucks. 

The RI Department of Environmental Management is required by law to direct WRARI to euthanize the animal if you fail to follow this guidance. Call us (401) 294-6363 or the DEM at (401) 222-3070.

Special Note About Raccoons

Raccoons are nocturnal but young healthy ones will come out to play in broad daylight (especially early afternoon). They are not sick, nor are they rabid. Please leave them alone!  If you are unsure call us! If you touch one with your bare hands state law requires the DEM to instruct us to euthanize it

Baby Reptiles

Most baby reptiles you are likely to find will be perfectly healthy. These include garter snakes and turtles. If you find one of these, or several, they do not need your help. They have probably just hatched from nests buried in the ground and, for most species, it is their first duty to go out and find water. Reptile babies receive little or no maternal care and are ready to find their own food and shelter. Please leave them alone and keep pets and children away!

If you find an injured reptile or amphibian:

  • Place the animal in a covered cardboard box with a clean, dry towel.  Do not place dirt, leaves or any wet material in the box. 

  • Do not attempt to feed, as an injured reptile undergoing stress will not eat anything you try to give it.  

  • Keep in a cool, quiet, dark place until you can get it to the Wildlife Clinic.  At this time we do not have any private licensed rehabilitators in the state that care for reptiles, so ALL injured wild reptiles must be brought to the Wildlife Clinic for care.

  • If you find a large snapping turtle, be extremely careful. They have very long necks and a powerful bite. It is best to use a broom or shovel and gently push it into a wheelbarrow or trashcan.

Turtles crossing the road

If you see a turtle on the road, be sure to move it off in the direction that is was heading. Turtles move purposefully, and whether they’re moving to a breeding ground or nesting area, they will do all they can to get there. 

Remember, it is illegal to take any wild animal into your home and keep it as a pet or care for and release it.