Helping Injured, Potentially Orphaned, or Distressed Wildlife in the Time of COVID-19.

Animal Help Now (AHNow) is in a unique position in the world of wildlife rehabilitation. The very nature of our work gives us more access than anyone to US wildlife rehabilitators.

Today we approached our focus group – a diverse cross-section of the country’s rehabilitators – asking them whether or not the coronavirus pandemic is affecting them; if so, how; and what changes, if any, they have made to their daily routines.

Their responses were reassuring. First and foremost, they seemed in agreement that the virus was not adversely impacting the US public’s willingness to assist injured, potentially orphaned, or distressed wildlife. This is good and right, as there is no known coronavirus transmission risk for people safely handling wildlife anywhere in the world, let alone the United States.

Of course, members of the public should always practice universal precautions for handling wildlife*, for the safety of both the human animal and whatever animal the human is helping.

The respondents pointed up the need for wildlife rehabilitators to be cautious when interacting with a member of the public who brings an animal to a facility. States rehabilitator Judy P: “[W]ildlife rehabilitators [may designate] only one small area for intakes, which can be disinfected after each use; have the public use hand sanitizer upon entering the premises; etc.” Judy adds, “I will be doing intakes on my porch – I work at home – and won’t let people inside the house.”

Rehabilitators at Nature’s Nurse have added (and recommend) the following safety measure for babies: “We place a carrier with a heating pad under it on our porch. We ask the finder to place the babies in the carrier and take all boxes and towels with them when they leave, and then immediately text or call, at which point we will come out and grab the babies.”

Rehabilitator Arianna M states, “We’ve doubled up on deep cleaning and routine cleaning of our center.”

As to the risk of transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control, “Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread.”

Which is to say, with what we know now, and in accordance with what you’ve been told, the human animal is the threat.

We’d be remiss to not end this piece with a reminder (verbatim from Johns Hopkins): Prevention involves frequent hand-washing, coughing into the bend of your elbow, and staying home when you are sick.

With hand sanitizer in high demand, you might benefit from this DIY guidance.

The American Veterinary Medical Association offers additional information, particularly with regard to protecting domestic animals, in this guide for veterinarians and these FAQs.

* As to universal precautions on handling injured, potentially orphaned, or distressed wildlife, AHNow advises:

  • To protect yourself from disease and injury (1) never approach or attempt to rescue an animal who is behaving abnormally (circling, staggering, etc.) or shows signs of disease (salivating, discharge from the eyes or nose, etc.) and (2) always wear thick gloves whenever handling wildlife.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling wildlife.
  • Exercise caution and good judgment and consult with the experts we’ll direct you to before handling, transporting, or otherwise disturbing a wild animal. Refer to our resources page for more information.