What Should You Do If You Find Injured Wildlife?


photo credit: Rachel Castelino

Even though we live in a city, wildlife is all around us, and sometimes we find some poor creature who needs a little extra help.

Neighbors noticed a skunk stumbling around with a soda can on their head. Animal Control was called in to help.

A local Cliftonite posted on the Clifton News and Community Facebook page asking for help with a skunk who had a soda can stuck on his or her head since at least 9:30 pm the prior evening. Clifton Animal Control had been called but hadn’t been able to find the animal. In the morning, when neighbors saw the little skunk with the can still on their head, they worked together to try and pull the can off but when that couldn’t be done safely, bystanders put a drawer over the animal to contain them and waited for Animal Control to arrive.

Finally freed from the can after over 14 hours!
Please dispose of garbage and recycling properly to avoid endangering wildlife

Sadly, Clifton has only one Animal Control Officer (ACO) available on Saturdays, who was busy on another emergency call. So after a few hours, Wayne Animal Control was called to come help. With the help of a local bystander, the ACO caught the skunk, who was still under the drawer. She tried removing the can using soap but it was stuck tight. The next step was to cut the can off with scissors. Once the can was off, it was clear that the little skunk was just about a year old, an adolescent making poor choices and overindulging in soda. The skunk had some dried blood on the neck, but the ACO reported that there were no open or fresh injuries and the skunk was in good shape and just needed a bit of water and rest. Our stinky friend was returned to Weasel Brook Park where they are hopefully recuperating nicely.

How Can You Help Injured Wildlife. The first thing to do if you find an injured wild animal is to call the Clifton Police non-emergency number and have them contact the Animal Control Officer on duty. The State of New Jersey has protocols that all ACOs need to follow in assessing wildlife and they are equipped with the knowledge and tools to help without injuring the animal any further.

Skunks have long claws for digging that they also use to dig through garbage bags.

It is very helpful if you can contain the animal in a cage or like here, under an old dresser drawer, so that Animal Control can get to the animal as quickly and easily as possible.

Have someone wait with the animal to make sure that no one accidentally releases them, and to assist if Animal Control needs an extra pair of hands.

Animal Control Protocols. If an animal is not injured Animal Control will not intervene to remove them. If the animal is injured but mobile, they will assess and decide if the animal needs to go to a veterinarian or rehabilitator for further care. If the animal is injured and immobile, the animal will be removed and taken for further assessment, which can include euthanasia to spare the animal any further suffering.

Most animals needing veterinary care are taken to Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital. We were told that Franklin Lakes does not take juvenile or adult skunks however as they spray and it can shut down the facility. They will take skunk babies and other wildlife animals in need.

Freed from the Coke can the young skunk waits to be released to safety.

Wild Animals and Your Garbage. The most important things we can do to help animals is to avoid harming them. Often that can mean driving slowly and carefully, especially during dawn and dusk when animals may be out feeding, and especially during mating seasons or when babies are young in spring and summer.

It can also mean not littering and disposing of your household garbage and recycling in cans with lids so animals cannot get in. Many people will put out their trash in black plastic bags which animals can chew through, not realizing that this puts them in danger of eating something poisonous or of being injured.

Here someone had left a Coca-Cola can out and had cut the top off. The curious skunk had put their head in and couldn’t remove it. We were told that Animal Control often sees groundhogs with cans or other garbage stuck on their heads and needing rescue.

Garbage bags are not enough to keep out wildlife. Here skunks and other animals have torn through the bag to eat food scraps, endangering themselves and making a mess. Please dispose of garbage properly.

Please dispose of trash in big bins that animals cannot get into, and put your trash out only on the day of pick up. Covering all garbage and recycling is also important because if paper and cardboard get wet, they may be unusable as recycled material since wet paper can jam the sorting machines. Composting organic matter, like food scraps, can help reduce your garbage’s appeal to wildlife, too. The rules for garbage disposal in Clifton are HERE.

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