I could not have slept tonight if I had not given those two little birds to their mother.

— Abraham Lincoln, who stopped to return two fledglings to their nest

If there’s anything that upsets me more than seeing an animal on the road who’s been hit by a car, it’s knowing that the driver simply kept going. Maybe ― in the case of a squirrel or other small animal — the driver wasn’t aware of what he’d done. But no one could miss the thud of a 30- or 40-pound raccoon. Such was the scene I came upon early this morning: an adult raccoon who had been struck by a car, bleeding from her mouth, lying in the middle of a busy two-lane road. I slowed as I passed and thought I detected some movement — a twitch of her tail, perhaps. I pulled over and called Animal Control, but the dispatcher said there was nothing they could do to help a raccoon; he suggested I call the county wildlife-rescue center. No thanks, I thought; I’ll do something myself. Who knows how long before someone runs over her.

Chris Young/State Journal Register

I got out of my truck and approached her carefully; she was clearly alive, the hair on her abdomen rising and falling with each breath. I silently cursed everyone who had been too busy or just too insensitive to stop for this poor creature.

There was no way I was going to leave her in the street to die, though I felt woefully unprepared to pick her up and transport her: all I had was a bath towel. What I also needed was a cardboard box, like an animal carrier you get from shelters, and some thick gloves. Draping the towel over her, I tucked the ends of the cloth under her body and gently lifted her, letting one edge of the towel fall over her eyes. She didn’t even stir as I placed her on the floor of my truck. I could only imagine the pain and fear she was suffering. I drove straight to a 24-hour pet hospital in my city, and they agreed to euthanize her. (When I offered to pay, the technician said they have a Good Samaritan policy and don’t charge for euthanizing injured wildlife. Nice.)

Perhaps people don’t stop because they don’t know what to do to help. A little preparation can go a long way, so here are a few tips:

  • Know the locations and phone numbers of your local pet hospital and wildlife-rescue center.
  • Keep a cardboard box with air holes (like this one) in your vehicle, as well as thick gloves and a large towel.
  • Carry these items with you as you move toward the animal.
  • When approaching an injured animal, move slowly and quietly; resist the urge to speak to him.
  • Wearing gloves, gently lift the animal unto the towel and place him into the box and close the lid. If he won’t fit into the box, wrap him in the towel and cover his eyes.
  • Back in your vehicle, keep the radio off. If it’s cold outside, leave the heater on. Don’t speak to the animal.
  • Note the location where you found him. If he can be rehabilitated and released, this will help rehabilitators return him to his home territory.

Remember, even if the injured animal does not vocalize, she is scared and in pain. Drive her to your local animal hospital, animal shelter or wildlife-rescue center. If injuries are severe (which would be consistent with being struck by a car), staff will likely euthanize her. That’s not a happy ending, of course, but it’s much better than the fate that would await her lying in the street.

NOTE: PETA offers a rescue kit — including a cardboard box, leash and towel — for $14, though it doesn’t include gloves.