If you are within the Greater Toronto Area, the first thing you should do is leave a message on our Wildlife Hotline at (416) 631-0662. We aim to return emergency calls within the hour between 9AM and 6PM. Messages left after 6PM will be returned the following morning—we will call you back and help make arrangements to get the animal medical attention.

What to do while you wait

There are two very important things you can do for an adult animal while waiting to speak to a wildlife rehabilitator (baby wild animals require different temporary care—read these guidelines on how to help orphaned baby wild animals)

(1) Keep the animal in a dark, quiet place

Once the animal is contained, cover the outside of the container with a sheet or towel so that the container is dark. This will help reduce the animal’s stress level. Keep the container in a quiet place away from people or pets—a closet or garage is ideal.

(2) Don’t give the animal food or water

It is very important that you DO NOT give the animal anything to eat or drink unless you have been instructed to do so by our hotline staff or another wildlife rehabilitator. This seems a strange instruction to some, but improper feeding or foods can actually hurt the animal more than it helps.

Here’s why:

  • If the animal is dehydrated, emaciated, or suffering from trauma, it will not have the ability to digest food. Trying to do so can cause bloating and shock.
  • Food or liquid can be easily aspirated (breathed into the lungs) by a sick or injured animal. This can quickly lead to pneumonia and possible death.
  • Foods that are not a normal part of the animal’s diet can cause serious digestive problems, making their recovery even more difficult.

If you will not be able to transport the animal to a rehabilitator within a short period of time, consult the rehabilitator on the phone to see if the animal will need food or water within that period of time, and if so how you should offer it.

If the animal is wet

If the animal seems wet, give it a heat source by placing an electric heating pad set on ‘low’ underneath half of the container, or securing a chemical hand/glove warmer (usually called ‘Hot Paws’ or something similar) underneath the box. Do not try to put anything inside the box, as there is a high risk of the animal escaping.

Note: a heat source is not necessary for reptiles and amphibians such as turtles, snakes, toads and frogs.