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Wildlife Rescue Advice


If you have native animals that may need rescue help, please observe safely from a distance first to ascertain if the animal is truly ill, injured or in need of rescue. Please reduce stress to the animals by keeping all people and pets away and follow the advice listed below for each species.


If you have found sick or injured bats, seals, whales or dolphins including beached animals, do not touch them. Please call the Department of Conservation (DOC) Emergency Hotline 0800 362 468 for further advice.


If you have found a sick or injured penguin please call DOC's Emergency Hotline 0800 362 468 or a WReNNZ registered wildlife centre caring for penguins, for further advice.


If you have found a sick or injured raptor or bird of prey, such as Harriers, Hawks, Falcons and Morepork please call DOC's Emergency Hotline 0800 362 468 or a WReNNZ registered wildlife centre, for further advice. These birds have large talons and should be rescued by experienced handlers. If you are asked to assist with the rescue please follow the bird capture advice below.


If you have found a sick or injured bird please call DOC's Emergency Hotline 0800 362 468 or a WReNNZ registered wildlife centre, for further advice. Sick or injured birds need to be taken to a vet or wildlife centre as quickly as possible.

If a bird is obviously injured or unwell it needs rescue, however care needs to be taken with chicks to ensure they definitely need rescuing before removing them as they should be left in the care of their parents wherever possible. If you are unsure if a chick needs rescuing please review WReNNZ 'What to do if you find a baby bird' information and speak with DOC staff or a WReNNZ registered centre for additional advice.

When rescuing a bird you must take care, as animals and rescuers can be injured in the rescue process if you are not careful. Birds can have sharp beaks, bills and claws and they are wild creatures that will not understand you are trying to help them.

Before attempting a rescue it is best to identify the bird's species. The digital encyclopedia of New Zealand birds can help you do this.


The best way to capture an ill or injured bird is to gently guide it to a confined space and drop a large towel or blanket over it.  You can use the blanket to hold the wings to the bird's side and keep the head covered and safe and allow safe support of the feet.

If it is a raptor you are capturing, it is likely to flick onto its back and present its talons in a menacing way. Allow the bird to grip on the towel as it is thrown over it.  This will allow you to very carefully grasp the legs with one hand, and control the body (wrapped in the towel) with the other.

If you are capturing a bird like a heron, bittern, or shag, hold the back of the head and keep your face well away from their beaks; these are darting birds and they can stretch their necks and jab with their beaks with alarming speed and accuracy.  Also, check if a bird has internal nostrils, because if you hold these birds beaks closed they will not be able to breathe; gannets and shags are two birds that have internal nostrils.


Place the bird (and the towel if necessary) in a box large enough to contain the bird but not so large that it could do more damage to itself. Ensure there are some holes or spaces to allow airflow and that the box is secure enough that the bird cannot escape.


You should not attempt any first aid beyond keeping the bird in a warm, quiet, and dark environment.  Keep it away from human and predator sounds (including TV, radio and pets). The bird will be in shock and you want to minimise the effects.  Call your local rescue centre immediately and arrange for the bird to be taken into care as soon as possible, or alternatively take it to your local veterinarian. Please refer to our members listing for the closest WReNNZ wildlife rehabilitator.

Rehabilitation and Release

All native, endemic, and game birds are protected by law and a permit from the Department of Conservation is required to have any protected bird in your possession. Wild animals rescued must be returned to the wild after their time in care and they must be cared for by experienced rehabilitators to have the best chance of recovery. All native animals also need to be released near to where they were found. If you are interested in caring for native animals long-term you can join WReNNZ to find out more.


If you have found a dead native animal you can report this to DOC by calling 0800 362 468. If you've found 3 or more dead animals report these details to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) pest and disease hotline 0800 809 966.

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