A stranded animal is generally a live marine animal out of its natural environment. Beached dolphins, seals trapped high on rocks and icebound whales are all examples of stranded animals. Stranded animals will probably die without human intervention [source: SeaWorld]. Here's what you can do to help a stranded animal if you come across one:

  1. Don't touch or feed any stranded animals. It's unsafe for the animals and for you. Don't cover them or pour water on them. Rather, leave stranded animals alone [source: New England Aquarium].
  2. Watch the animal from at least 50 feet (15 meters) away. Keep other people and animals away.
  3. Look at the animal's physical characteristics. Pay attention to its size and colors to help figure out what species it is.
  4. Try to evaluate the animal's condition. Look for obvious wounds or other signs of injury. See if you can tell if the animal seems weak, scrawny or generally unhealthy [source: UNE].
  5. Look for any identification tags or markings [source: UNE]. Many marine research centers will tag and track animals for study. Knowing whether the animal is being tracked will help rescuers [source: Census of Marine Life].
  6. Figure out the exact location of the animal on the beach or shoreline so rescuers can easily find the animal [source: UNE].
  7. Contact the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's 24-hour phone line at 1-800-853-1964 after you've observed the animal and gathered as much information you can. Stay calm and leave your name and phone number where you can be reached to help the rescuers save the day [source: UNE].