Found An Injured, Sick or Orphaned Animal?

Let us help.

Follow the steps outlined on this page below to determine your next steps or contact us immediately if there is an emergency.

For wildlife emergency call
Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge
or for after hours call


Emerald Coast Wildlife

Part of the charm of the Emerald Coast area is the abundance of wildlife that is found here. Pelicans drifting across the horizon can be viewed daily. You can often find dolphins playing in the bay.  And you can always see rabbits, birds, squirrels, deer or even bear in your own backyard, especially during the spring and summer when many animals are born. Sometimes you may find an adult animal that is hurt or a baby animal that is orphaned. When that happens the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge is available to assist all Florida native species from owls to sea turtles to whales.

Wildlife is a vital part of Florida’s ecosystem, and a healthy ecosystem in turn benefits our own health and well being.
An essential part of the ECWR mission is to educate and encourage environmental responsibility including the appreciation of native wildlife.

As growth and development continue in our area, encounters and conflicts with native animals are bound to occur. The Wildlife Refuge provides well-reasoned, effective, and humane solutions to conflicts with wildlife.

If each of us learn more about the natural history and behaviors of our local native animals, we might discover that a “nuisance” animal is in an essential element of the eco-system.

Remember it is easier to change human behavior than to change the behaviors of wildlife.

What To Do If You Find Wildlife

Dealing With Injured or Orphaned Animals

If you find an animal in need of help, follow these steps to ensure the safety of both the animal and you. Remember, injured animals are usually scared and they may bite or scratch out of fear. ALWAYS USE CAUTION WHENEVER DEALING WITH WILD ANIMALS.

  1. Determine if the animal is in need of help. Sometimes animals behave in ways that make us think they are hurt when they are actually perfectly healthy. Some signs that the animal does need help include bleeding, a broken limb, shivering, or being brought to you by a cat or dog. Also, remember that not every baby animal you find is orphaned.
    Never assume baby wildlife needs our help. Always consult with a Wildlife Rehabilitator before touching or relocating an animal.  Even small animals can bite and scratch when feeling threatened. Many times parents will leave the babies alone while they go find food. Shivering, vomiting, injuries, or evidence of a dead parent nearby are signs that the baby is an orphan.
  2. Contact a local wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. ECWR representatives have experience in dealing with all of the local species, and they will give you more specific instructions on how to help the animal. Describe the animal, its physical condition, and location to the representative so that they can give you the best instructions. If you cannot reach an ECWR representative, contact the state or federal wildlife agencies.
  3. Unless told otherwise, the safest way to capture and transport the animal is by gently covering it with a pillowcase or towel and placing it in cardboard box lined with a towel. ALWAYS WEAR GLOVES WHEN DEALING WITH WILD ANIMALS. For most songbirds, a brown paper bag is fine for transport. For larger birds or other animals, use a cardboard box or similar container. Punch some air holes in the box first, and then line the bottom with a soft towel or cloth. While wearing gloves, use another towel to cover the animal and gently scoop it up and place it in the box. Tape the box shut and put the animal in a warm, dark, quiet place until you can get the animal to the wildlife rehabilitator.
  4. Keep children and pets away from the animal and don’t give it food or water. Injured and orphaned animals are scared and may be in shock. Food and/or water may cause the animal to choke, trigger serious digestive problems or cause aspiration pneumonia. Many injured animals are in shock and force-feeding can kill them.
    Place the container in a warm, dark, quiet place—away from pets, children and all noise (including the radio)—until you can transport the animal. Keep the container away from direct sunlight, air conditioning or excessive heat.
  5. After contact with an animal, wash your hands and anything else the animal contacted, such as towels or a pet carrier.
  6. Get the animal to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as you can. Prompt care and treatment by a professional will give the animal the best chance of healing properly. Transport the animal as soon as possible.
    Leave the radio off and keep talking to a minimum. Because wild animals aren’t accustomed to our voices, they can become very stressed by our noises. If they’re injured or orphaned, they’re already in a compromised condition. Keep their world dark and quiet to lower their stress level and help keep them alive.


The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, located at 105 Santa Rosa Blvd. in Fort Walton Beach, FL is open 7 days a week from 8am-4pm with an after-hours emergency line.

For wildlife emergency call
Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge
or for after hours call

Tips on reducing animal encounters in your yard:

  • Learn more about the animals that live in your area.
  • Place your trash cans at the curb on the day of pick-up rather than the night before. Store cans inside a shed or garage in between pick-ups.
  • Make your home or yard less attractive to the animals you don’t want there. Landscaping choices and habitat modification can encourage or discourage certain species. Deter snakes, skunks, or other animals by removing potential hiding places, such as rock and wood piles or storage sheds with space under the floor.
  • Cut off access to the places where animals enter buildings—cap chimneys and seal holes, for example. Close off potential den sites under decks, porches, steps, and crawl spaces. Fence vulnerable gardens and trees or use netting to exclude birds and other animals from plants.
  • Use devices that flash, move, make noise, or spray water to scare animals away. Chemical repellents labeled for the species you want to discourage can scare animals with their scents or make potential food unpalatable. Trapping a wild animal can often cause more trouble for you and can be dangerous for the animal.
  • Do not feed wild or domesticated animals in your yard. If you have an outdoor pet never free feed or leave food out over night.

For some more compassionate and humane solutions to coexisting with our wild neighbors please contact the ECWR at 850-684-1485.