The opportunity to help animals sometimes appears when we least expect it, so it’s good to be ready. Yesterday I was out for a run when I came upon an injured egret on the trail. Egrets love to wade in the creeks where I live in Sonoma County, but I never get close to them: they always move away as I run past them on the trail beside the creek, or else they leap into the sky, gracefully spreading their large, snow-white wings and flying to the safety of a nearby perch.


But this particular bird, whom I believe was a snowy egret, didn’t move. He was lying on his side, with one wing partially cocked in the air. I’ve had enough animal-related emergencies while running that I now keep a cell phone in my fanny pack, so I called a local bird-rescue group. The sound of my voice startled the egret, who managed to right himself and hobble a few steps away.


I was only able to leave a message with the bird organization, so I called Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue and told them I’d be bringing in an injured egret. Somehow. I ran back to my truck and enlisted the assistance of a friend. Together we drove back to the creek and managed to catch the egret, who was very weak. Fortunately, the rescue center was only a few miles away, and within minutes, the injured and stressed egret was in the hands of professional wildlife rehabilitators. I showed them on a map exactly where I’d found the bird, so they could return him to his home once he’d healed.


The lesson here is to be prepared by knowing the phone numbers of your local wildlife rescue centers and where they are located. Even if you live in an urban area, there are groups that specialize in birds, squirrels, raccoons and the countless other animals with whom we share this world. It’s also a good idea to keep a few things in the trunk of your car: a cardboard box, a blanket and some gloves will come in handy when rescuing small animals.


A few tips:


Baby animals are plentiful in the spring, but if they appear to be unhurt and are not in immediate danger, they’re generally all right. Chances are their mother is nearby collecting food for the little ones.


If you find an uninjured bird who has fallen from a nest, and you can find the nest, it’s OK to return the bird; the mother will accept him or her.


If you find an injured animal, place him or her in a covered box or carrier and put the box in a dark, quiet place. Make sure the animal can breathe inside the box and doesn’t get too hot or cold (bird rescuers recommend placing the box on a heating pad, turned on LOW). If the animal cannot be moved, cover him or her with a towel or blanket so he or she will stay calm until help arrives.


Don’t feed the animal or offer him or her water.


Immediately contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or agency in your area. (It’s not a bad idea to have those numbers programmed into your phone.)


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