ROAD SENSE If encounter an animal injured on the road, always approach it slowly and quietly, keeping as low as possible to appear non threatening.
What to do when you encounter an injured animal on the road
The vet's view
Animals, whether they be domestic or wild, can be fearful of human intervention when they are badly injured or dying. Even your own pet dog or cat can lash out through no fault of their own, when in pain. We see it along the road so often – an injured wild animal, such as a deer or a badger, or a pet, like a dog or a cat, that has unfortunately been hit by traffic and is, in lots of cases, lying injured on the roadside.
When you’re confronted with such a situation, following a few simple guidelines can help avoid, or at least minimise, injury to yourself or another road user, and limit even more suffering to the animal involved.
Your primary concern should always be your own safety and that of fellow road users. If you encounter such a situation, or indeed if you have hit an animal yourself, the first step is to pull off the road where it is safe to do so, and put your hazard lights on.
Be very aware of traffic approaching from both directions, especially if they are travelling at speed and may swerve to avoid the injured animal if it is still on the road.
To avoid being attacked or causing the injured animal more pain and distress, always approach an injured animal, slowly and quietly. Keep as low a profile as possible, a towering presence can spook wild animals, especially deer. Avoid eye contact if possible, many animals perceive eye contact as a threat/challenge. Talk to the animal, calmly and softly.
Before you approach the animal, try as best as you can to bring with you things you think you might need, such as a piece of rope and/or a blanket and so on, to avoid any unnecessary coming and going to your vehicle.
If the animal bolts or gets spooked, stop immediately and crouch down, to avoid causing a traffic accident and/or further injury to the animal or yourself. Animals like deer are very easily spooked and can easily cause traffic accidents, as they tend to become ‘blind’ or spatially unaware if badly injured. Try if possible to get some help to herd the animal off the road and perhaps into a field, and immediately call the guards.
We here at Skeldale have received many calls over the years from the guards to assist in the treatment of injured deer and other wildlife, and we are always willing to help. Animals like badgers, stoats and foxes have very sharp teeth, and these teeth are their only means of defence if they are injured and cannot make their escape by running away. Having a piece of rope at hand to use as a lead or restraint can potentially save you from a nasty bite.
Often times, it is unfair to put a wild animal through the trauma of treatment and confinement if the result will be disfigurement or an inability to resume a natural life in the wild, so euthanasia is sometime the best option.
It is also worth remembering that sometimes when you encounter a young wild animal, intervening could be the worst thing you could do. Mum could be feeding nearby and the youngster may have only strayed a little. Given time, she may return to find her young, so don’t always assume that a juvenile is abandoned or lost.
The general rule of thumb, though, is do try to help injured animals on our roads, but always remember that your own safety and that of other road users is vital — and that animals, through no fault of their own, may lash out, driven by fear or pain. Always proceed with caution.
Veterinarian Conal Finnerty MRCVS practises at the Skeldale Vet Clinic in Ballinrobe and Belmullet. Follow the clinic on Facebook, or call 094 9541980 or 087 9185350 to make an appointment.