One recent morning, in the middle of the snowy weather, it was a real struggle to get to work. The main roads were open and gritted, but the side roads were hazardous with patches of snow and ice. After a difficult journey, I was surprised to find that the nurse was already checking in a patient. A motorist had found a seriously injured fox which had been hit by a car.
He hadn’t seen the accident happen, so he did not know how long the fox had been lying by the road, and we can only hope that no-one was injured in the accident. All the cars in front of him had pulled out round the fox, but he had stopped. On finding the fox was still alive, he picked it up and put it in his boot and brought it to the surgery.
Great care should be used if handling an injured wild animal because, understandably, they are liable to panic and to bite if frightened and in pain, and will not understand that you are trying to help them. In most cases it is better to telephone for advice first from either your local veterinary surgery or the RSPCA. If the animal is to be moved, it is much safer with the right protective clothing and equipment. However, this fox offered no resistance.
We examined the fox and found it was a young adult male which was in reasonable condition before the accident. Unfortunately it was barely conscious and had at least one hip fracture. A more detailed examination and x-rays would be needed to find out what other injuries it had, but as our fox was not yet well enough he was given pain relief by injection and placed in a warm, quiet, kennel in a darkened room.
Unfortunately this particular story does not have a happy ending because our fox died later in the morning. However, I am glad that he was not left to suffer and to freeze slowly to death by the side of the road. If he had survived the initial trauma of the accident, decisions about further treatment would have been made based on what was in his best interests, including whether he could make a successful return to the wild after a period of recovery.
Different veterinary practices may have different policies on the treatment of wildlife. Some may offer treatment in the practice, while others may refer animals to nearby treatment centres such as the RSPCA or other charities, depending on the facilities in the area. Often there are local people known to practices who may take in particular types of wildlife for rehabilitation such as injured birds, hedgehogs, badgers etc. In coastal areas there are specialist charities which deal with injured or stranded dolphins, seals and whales, and with oiled birds.
Some wild animals or birds which appear to be in difficulties may be best left where they are rather than being moved. Fledgling birds in particular are often still under the watchful eye of a parent even if they appear to be abandoned, so if you find one and are not sure what to do, try to get some telephone advice before moving or handling it.
If you are worried that your dog or cat may have been hit by a car, contact your vet or use our Interactive Pet Symptom Guide for advice on what to do next.