What is Wildlife Rehabilitation?

Wildlife rehabilitation is the profession of providing temporary care for injured, sick and orphaned wild animals with the goal of giving them a second chance back into the wild. Animals that are released  must have the ability to recognize and find appropriate foods, socialize with members of their own species, exhibit normal behaviors such as fear of humans and predator avoidance and their injury must be totally healed. 

In the United States it is illegal to practice wildlife rehabilitation without the proper state and/or federal permits. Every state has different permit requirements. Check with your state fish and wildlife agency to learn more about your state's requirements . In addition, anyone wishing to rehabilitate migratory birds protected by federal laws must obtain a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Rehabilitation Permit.

Wild animals are very different from domestic animals. Rehabilitators need extensive knowledge about the species in their care, including natural history, nutritional requirements, behavioral issues, and caging considerations.

Wildlife rehabilitation is extremely demanding and stressful. The reward is to give an animal a second chance and see it released back to the wild. 

It is strongly recommended that you volunteer or intern at a rehabilitation facility near you to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation and see if wildlife rehabilitation is a good fit for you.

Why is Wildlife Rehabilitation Needed?

As cities expand and humans move into wildlife habitat the contact between humans and wildlife grows. As wild animals adapt to urban living they have many conflicts with their human neighbors and the wild animal is usually on the losing end. Wildlife rehabilitation gives these wild animals a second chance at life.

In an increasingly urban world, people are less likely to have knowledge of and experience with wild animals. A major role of a wildlife rehabilitator is to help people co-exist with their wild neighbors.

Working with wildlife requires specialized knowledge, skill, and facilities. Potential dangers exist for the public, domestic animals, and wildlife when untrained people attempt to provide care for wildlife. Wildlife rehabilitators are trained to provide specialized care for the animal’s return to health and successful release back to the wild. They also hold the permits to allow them to legally possess wild animals for rehabilitation and release.