This page will tell you how to help a sick or injured large animal like a raccoon, opossum, fox, or coyote. If the mammal you’ve found is smaller than that, click here. If you’ve found a bird, click here to go back to the species selection page.
Signs that a large mammal is sick or injured
If you think the large mammal might be a BABY, click here for more information. If the animal is an adult, the following signs indicate that it needs medical attention:
- There are obvious wounds or blood on its body
- It looks fluffy or sleepy and lets you walk right up to it
- One or more of its legs or head look like they’re pointing in the wrong direction
- There is string, oil, glue, or some other substance on its body
- There is garbage or a forgein object stuck to part of its body (e.g. a cup on its head or a can on its paw)
- It is missing a lot of fur
- It keeps going in a circle, or loses its balance when it tries to move
If you’ve determined that the animal needs help, the next step is getting it safe and secure until you can find help for it. If you already have it contained, click here for help finding a wildlife rehabilitator.
Be careful with large mammals
Large mammals like raccoons, foxes, beavers, etc., should ideally be contained by a wildlife professional. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator first to see if they able to help. Sometimes that isn’t possible, or the animal is badly hurt or incapacitated enough to be safely contained by a member of the public. Keep the following safety tips in mind if you are going to try to contain a large mammal yourself.
All mammals have teeth and claws, and will use them to protect themselves if they feel threatened. Never try to pick up an adult mammal like a raccoon, fox, or beaver with your hands — even if you’re wearing gloves. It’s best and safest to use an indirect method to contain them.
Remember – human safety first! If at any point you feel afraid or uncomfortable, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice. They can give you species-based tips and tricks, talk you through a tricky rescue, or possibly arrange capture by someone with more experience. If you do get bitten or scratched, call your family doctor for advice right away.
How to Contain a Large Mammal
Securing the area
Even if you cannot contain the animal yourself, you may be able to secure the area until a wildlife professional can respond. Close backyard gates, block off entrances to hiding spots, or even just keep a close eye on the animal while you look for help.
The “Spider” method
Have you ever caught a spider to put it outside by putting a cup over it and sliding a piece of paper underneath? You can contain a large mammal the same way, on a larger scale. You will need:
- A sturdy container, such as a cardboard box, a plastic tote, or a recycling bin; if the container is made of plastic, make sure it has air holes beforehand
- A stiff piece of cardboard, plastic, or wood to slide underneath
- A towel or blanket (optional)
Approach the animal calmly and quietly. Once you’re close enough, place the container right over top of the animal, trapping it inside. This might be easier to do if you toss a towel over the animal first, especially covering its head and eyes. If the animal is still mobile, use the towel to corral it into a corner against a wall or fence to get close enough to contain it.
Slide a stiff piece of cardboard, wood, or plastic under the container. Use rope, bungee cords, or duct tape to secure the bottom to the container.
The “Scootch” method
Depending on the animal and the situation, it may be easier to place the container on its side and use a broom, tree branch, or other implement to nudge it in. Remember — don’t use your hands! Once the animal is inside, gently right the container and find a way to secure a lid to it.
Once the container is secure, put it in a dark, quite place (a bathroom or a heated garage is perfect!) and contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.
While we never recommend live trapping to resolve nuisance situations, it can be a safe and effective way to catch an animal that needs help but is still very mobile. How and where to set a trap, what size trap to use, and what to use for bait will depend on the species and what’s wrong with it. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice before getting started.
While you are waiting to hear back from a wildlife rehabilitator, keep the animal contained in a dark, quiet place. Don’t give it any food or water until you have spoken to a rehabilitator. Further temporary care instructions can be found here.