If you find an injured raptor, special steps are needed to protect it and yourself. The following steps will ensure everyone’s safety:
- Please do not attempt to care for a raptor on your own. Always contact a licensed professional. To find a wildlife rehabilitator near you, refer to Virginia DWR Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators.
- Do not keep a raptor any longer than is necessary to get it to a veterinary professional, raptor rehabilitator, or state/federal wildlife representative.
- Never feed an injured raptor. Raptors have very specific dietary needs and even the best meat available or their normal diet may be inappropriate for a raptor in certain conditions. Often injured raptors are suffering from dehydration and/or emaciation, so food or water may kill it.
- Handle the raptor only if absolutely necessary! The less contact it has with people, the more likely it will be to survive. Stress is deadly for these birds.
- If you must handle a raptor, wear long, heavy gloves and use a blanket or towel to cover the bird. Gently fold the raptor’s wings against its body into a normal, relaxed position.
- Place the raptor in a cardboard box with small ventilation holes cut near the floor of the box. The box should be slightly larger than the bird. Less room to move around means less chance of the raptor causing itself injury. However, on the flip side, if a container is too small, a bird can sustain extensive wing and feather damage.
- Cover the bottom of the cardboard box with a clean towel or sheet, DO NOT line with hay or straw because this can expose the raptor to fungi that may lead to deadly lung infections.
- NEVER use a wire cage, transport raptors in the open bed of a truck, or leave the raptor in a place where temperatures could reach extremes.
- Provide the raptor with a dark, quiet, and warm environment. DO NOT keep the raptor any longer than absolutely necessary and always keep it away from pets and children.
- NOTE: When transporting a raptor to a treatment facility, please continue to provide it a quiet environment (please ‐ no radio, singing, talking, etc.)
- Remember, even a seriously injured or seemingly incapacitated raptor can be potentially dangerous. Even if you are trying to help the bird, it will be frightened and may perceive you as a threat. Raptors can be quite unpredictable. Be particularly cautious of the beak and talons.
It is a violation of state and federal law for members of the public to hold most species of wild birds in captivity. Improper diet or medical care can do permanent damage in a very short period of time. “Good Samaritans” are permitted to rescue birds in distress, but must transfer them immediately to a properly permitted rehabilitator. Rehabilitation permits are not a mere legal formality – they are issued to people who have completed extensive (2 years, minimum) hands-on training, demonstrated knowledge regarding proper nutrition, husbandry, injury, parasites, disease, etc. and who have appropriate housing facilities.