Wildlife Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is a major part of PAWS’ work with wildlife. We have established our expertise at PAWS Wildlife Center by working with more than 100,000 wild animals of 260 different species over the past 30 years.

The work can be stressful and demanding. But seeing an animal recover and return to a wild and free life makes it all worthwhile.

What is it?

Wildlife rehabilitation is a profession involving the treatment and care of sick, injured or orphaned wild animals with the goal of releasing healed animals back to their natural habitats in the wild. To be released, animals must be able to function in their natural habitats as normal members of their species.

Effective rehabilitation meets the unique physical and psychological needs of each species we treat. It combines aspects of veterinary medicine, animal husbandry, animal behavior, biology and other fields.

Keeping the wild in wildlife

Wildlife rehabilitation does not attempt to turn wild animals into pets. Human contact with patients at PAWS is kept to a minimum, and animals are held in captivity only until they are able to live independently in the wild. Animals with injuries or illnesses that prevent them from surviving in the wild are humanely euthanized.

Releasing our wild patients

For rehabilitation to be deemed successful released animals must be able to survive on their own and be an integral part of their species' population, i.e., recognize and obtain appropriate foods, select mates of their own species to reproduce, and respond appropriately to potential dangers (flee or fight). These dangers include people, cars, dogs and natural predators.


Wildlife rehabilitation provides an opportunity for public education about the dangers wild animals face in an increasingly human-dominated landscape. This critical part of our work helps wildlife on a much larger scale than wildlife rehabilitation could alone.

Because PAWS does not believe in keeping wild animals permanently in captivity, we do not use live wild animals in our education programs. Instead, we use storytelling and wildlife artifacts to teach children and others to respect wildlife.

Who can rehabilitate wildlife?

It is illegal in the state of Washington to rehabilitate wildlife without a permit. PAWS holds both state (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) and federal (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) permits.

Learn more about what it takes to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.