There's no doubt about it, it's a very stressful thing to find a sick, injured, or orphaned animal-stressful for you and for the animal. But there are a few simple things you can do to minimize the stress you both feel and, in the process, to increase the animal's chances of survival.
The most important thing you can do for a distressed animal is to keep it warm, dark, and quiet - and keeping it warm, dark, and quiet is easy if you:
find an appropriately sized cardboard box (not so large that the animal can thrash about and hurt itself, but not so small that it can't rest comfortably) and line the bottom of the box with a soft cloth (not terry cloth-animals can catch their toenails in the "loops" and hurt themselves further);
put the animal in the box, close it up, and put the box on a heating pad set on "low." If you don't have a heating pad, you can put a homemade hot water bottle* under the box-but wrap the bottle in a small towel first so it doesn't make things too hot;
make sure the box is in a quiet place, away from human noise, such as radios, televisions, and people;
call Wildlife Rescue or the nearest wildlife rehabilitation service for immediate assistance.
Do not give the animal anything to eat or drink, and fight the urge to peek at it; it only stresses the animal out more -- and gives it a chance to escape.
Wildlife Rescue isn't the only wildlife rehabilitation service on the Peninsula, and because our resources are limited, we ask that you call the organization in your area for assistance.
If you're in Palo Alto, Mountain View, or Los Altos, or if you're a Wildlife Rescue member, call Wildlife Rescue at (650)494-SAVE (494-7283).
For San Mateo County, including Menlo Park, Redwood City, and Portola Valley, call the Peninsula Humane Society Wildlife Department at (650) 340-7022, extension 340. (Be sure to contact the Wildlife Department, not the domestic animal shelter.)
For Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Campbell, Saratoga, Santa Clara, or San Jose, call the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley at (408) 929-9453 or Injured and Orphaned Wildlife at (408) 378-1329.
For more information about Wildlife Rescue or about helping animals in distress, please call Wildlife Rescue at (650)494-SAVE.
* To make a homemade hot water bottle, moisten a washcloth and place it in a small Ziploc plastic bag. Heat the unsealed bag in a microwave oven for 1-2 minutes, or until the bag is very warm. Carefully seal the bag, wrap it in a small towel, and place it under the box with the bird or animal in it.