How to Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

If you respect and admire wild animals, wildlife rehabilitation might just be the calling for you. There is much more to the job than just a love for wildlife. Successful rehabilitation and release of sick, injured and orphaned wild animals requires specific skills and knowledge, as well as legal permits and licenses. Read more about wildlife rehabilitation. Continue below to learn about the essentials of becoming a wildlife rehabilitator.

Licenses and permits

It is illegal to attempt to rehabilitate a wild animal without the appropriate legal permits.

Federal law protects most wild birds and state laws additionally protect most other wildlife. To work with mammals, reptiles and amphibians, wildlife rehabilitators and wildlife rehabilitation centers in Washington State must be issued special permits from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (for other states contact your state fish and game/wildlife departments).

Before receiving their permits, rehabilitators must meet various requirements, such as specialized training, participation in mentorship programs, facility inspections, and written or oral exams. Rehabilitators who wish to care for migratory birds must also get permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Training and education

Wildlife rehabilitators work under a veterinarian's guidance to assess injuries and identify a variety of illnesses, and must be able to administer basic first aid and physical therapy. Because wild animals are so different from domestic animals, rehabilitators need extensive knowledge about a variety of species in their care, including natural history, nutritional requirements, behavioral issues, and caging considerations. They also need to understand the injury and health risks related to working with wildlife, and how to safely handle and restrain wild animals under their care.

Many rehabilitators learn the skills involved in wildlife rehabilitation through hands-on experience. Volunteering for a rehabilitation center and participating in an intern program are two ways to help develop these skills. A course of study in ecology, wildlife biology, zoology or veterinary medicine is also recommended.

For more information

Call PAWS Wildlife Center at 425.412.4040 and we will be happy to explain to you the process, give our guidance and best recommendations on what steps you need to consider in order to become a licensed rehabilitator.

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