This page will tell you how to help small mammals such as squirrels, chipmunks, mice, or groundhogs. If the mammal you have found is bigger than that, click here. If it is a bat, click here. If you’ve found a bird, click here to go back to the species selection page.
Signs that a small mammal is sick or injured
If you think the small mammal might be a BABY, click here for more information. If the animal is an adult, the following signs indicate that it needs help:
- 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
- The animal has had contact with a cat – even with no obvious injuries, this is a medical emergency for small mammals
- 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.
Containing a small mammal is not that difficult — you just need to know what to look out for.
Be careful with small mammals
All mammals — even small ones — have teeth, and will use them to bite if they feel threatened. Never try to pick up an adult mammal like a squirrel, chipmunk, or groundhog 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, or talk you through a tricky rescue. If you do get bitten or scratched, call your family doctor for advice right away.
How to contain a small mammal
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 small 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 before you start!)
- 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 a bit mobile, uset 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 too mobile to get close to. How and where to set a trap, what size trap to use, and what to use for bait will depend on the species of the animal 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.