Caring for an injured animal
Keeping a wild animal is forbidden in France, but the law has some flexibility to help injured creatures
Remember that the keeping and transport of wild animals, whether they are game animals or protected, living or dead, is forbidden in France without an autorisation de détention of the prefect.
Some allowance is made to give time for people to take an animal quickly to a sanctuary or animal welfare group (see the addresses above), but the law was created to avoid problems where people, through benign or malicious reasons, would keep animals in bad conditions.
It is wisest to contact the proper authorities: the gendarmes or the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, who will know what action to take.
You could take the animal to a vet, but in all likelihood he would refuse to examine the animal because he would not have the proper training.
If he agrees to get involved, then the examination and care is, in principle, free for a wild animal (it is a commitment taken on by the veterinary practice) other than, perhaps, the cost of some drugs.
If the animal comes round and starts to improve, it is important to release it back into the wild where it was found; and in the evening if it is nocturnal, like a hedgehog.
If you find what looks to be an abandoned young animal or fledgling, do not touch it or take it away. In all likelihood it has not been left and taking it means it will spend the rest of its life in captivity.
A fledgling can appear to be abandoned or to have fallen from the nest, but the parents are probably nearby, waiting for you to go away so that they can fly down.
In addition, if you see a baby blackbird or thrush on the ground that is unable to fly, do not touch it. These birds leave the nest after about 14 days when they are too young to fly.
They are fed and cared for by the adult birds on the ground. Young tawny owls leave the nest after about three or four weeks and perch on a nearby branch. If you find a young tawny owl on the ground, do not take it away; help it back on to a branch.
Fawns, young roe deer and young rabbits will stay in one spot waiting for their mother to return to feed them. It is important not to touch them as their mother will abandon them if they carry a foreign odour from being handled by humans. If you still feel they have been abandoned, leave them for two or three hours – or even the next day – to see whether the parent returns.
Leave animals to nature to ensure their survival…
Those fawns, young tawny owls, fox cubs and other animals have more need of peace and quiet than they do of the presence of humans. If they do not look injured, then move away quietly.
Many animals have been “rescued” from the wild by well-intentioned ramblers, but many are doomed to die because of lack of proper care and nourishment; others will end their lives in captivity and yet others will have to be put down after being seized from a private home without proper accommodation.
…and your security
Getting close to a wild bird or animal does not cause only them problems; most birds have quite formidable beaks and animals will not hesitate to bite if they feel threatened.
When you should intervene?
If the animal appears to be in distress, then you should think carefully about what to do.
First: take care and be calm. Birds have internal air sacs and very fragile bones, so it is important to handle them with extreme care. Depending on the animal, it is probably better to throw a cover or large item of clothing over them and put them in a cardboard box with air holes pierced in it, or in a cat basket.
Do not parade it round your neighbours (a photo should serve to immortalise the event) and once you have caught it leave it in a dark place so it can calm down and avoid being stressed.
Many captured animals die due to the stress of being captured, they are literally scared to death of humans. Be aware, also, that some animals can carry some – fortunately rare – illnesses that can be transmitted to humans; wash your hands, arms and face carefully.
Remember: when you are helping a wild animal you are doing it for the animal, not for yourself. Contact an animal welfare centre so that you do not make a mistake.
Certain species that you can encounter in the countryside, or even in town, are protected by law. These include: hedgehogs, red squirrels, beavers, otters, bats, birds of prey, many frogs, toads and salamanders.
Union Française des Centres de Sauvegarde de la Faune Sauvage – 03 86 97 86 05 (it will put you in touch with nearest centre)
Hedgehog sanctuary – Sanctuaire des Hérissons – Anne Burban, 03 22 09 21 03
Tortoise Village – Le Village des Tortues, 04 94 78 26 41 www.tortues.com
Bird protection – Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux 05 46 82 12 34 www.lpo.fr