Wildlife rehabilitation is many things, but glamorous is not one of them. Some jobs are repetitive and some are challenging. Some people may consider routine animal care boring. Some may get discouraged by callers who do not share their concern and respect for wildlife, or who do not believe that their advice is the best for the animal. Many wildlife rehabilitators have difficulty dealing with the death and suffering often encountered when rehabilitating wild animals.
There are also many rewards in wildlife rehabilitation: helping animals, relieving suffering, working with wonderful people, helping people regain some connection with nature and, of course, taking joy in releasing animals back into the wild.
Wildlife rehabilitation clinics are usually found in areas with high human populations. The larger wildlife rehabilitation centers are typically located near these areas due to the more frequent interactions between humans and wildlife. These centers are usually large enough to offer a variety of jobs covering the many aspects of wildlife rehabilitation.
Daily feeding and cage cleaning, medical treatment, public education, accounting and recordkeeping, biology, behavior and natural history of animals, and fundraising are a few examples. Many jobs require experience with wildlife and supervisory experience.
There is no “typical” job description that defines what is expected of a wildlife rehabilitator. Paid positions can involve some or all of the following: feeding baby birds or mammals, assisting with fluid therapy and bandaging, supervising paid staff and/or volunteers, providing public presentations about animals and the environment, cleaning cages, maintaining databases on animals and/or members, fundraising, capturing and transporting injured wild animals, talking to concerned citizens who call with animal and environmental related situations, and more.
Both the private and public sectors have employment opportunities. Publicly funded jobs exist at various city, county, and state nature and environmental education facilities. Jobs in the private sector are usually with nonprofit foundations and organizations. U.S. wildlife rehabilitators by law cannot charge a fee for animals brought to them, and this makes treating wildlife a nonprofit endeavor.
Education and Background
Successful wildlife rehabilitators are creative, resourceful, realistic, and concerned about wildlife, people and the environment. They have initiative to learn and continue learning.
Volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation facility or with an individual licensed rehabilitator is the best way to obtain experience. Consider a seasonal position if available. If appropriate to your college curriculum, arrange for an internship or cooperative placement. Training opportunities are available all over the continent, including volunteer positions, paid and unpaid internships, and seasonal positions.
Anyone interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator must also check with their state's Department of Fish and Wildlife to find out what the state permit requirements are. The regulations vary widely from state to state. Some states require a certain length of time studying with licensed wildlife rehabilitators, many states have examinations that must be passed prior to receiving a permit. Most states also require access to a veterinarian willing to work with the wildlife species with which the applicant wishes to work. In addition, any rehabilitator working with migratory birds (almost all bird species fall into this category) must obtain a federal permit. Federal permits have different requirements from state permits. The federal guidelines can be obtained from the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Migratory Bird Permit Office in your area.
The HSUS Cape Wildlife Center is a resource available to the Cape Cod, Massachusetts, community for the veterinary and rehabilitative care of injured, ill, or orphaned wildlife. If you're interested in volunteering or participating in a student externship, call contact them at 508-362-0111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're interested in summer programs for kids on Cape Cod, please visit WHOI for a comprehensive list.
Learn more about Animal Sheltering and Pet Care:
- Subscribe to Animal Sheltering magazine
- Visit AnimalSheltering.org — the premiere resource for animal care and control professionals!
- Subscribe to HSUS' weekly e-newsletter Pets for Life and get pet tips, expert news, and advice
- Contact your local shelter for information on what volunteer opportunities are available or look up volunteer information at www.Pets911.com or www.VolunteerMatch.org
- Visit The HSUS' Pets information and resources
Some of the information on this page has been adapted from The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association's website.