How to Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator 

Are you interested in becoming a Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator?  Are you passionate about saving wildlife and helping them to gain the skills necessary to survive in the wild? Along with compassion, a good rehabber has a working knowledge of first aid and triage, ecology and an understanding of state and federal laws pertaining to wildlife rehabilitation.

Wildlife Rehabbers work with a veterinarian to establish good medical practices. And most important for their safety and the animals well-being rehabbers need to have an understanding of zoonosis - animal to people diseases. 

Wild animal babies need very specific care. I work closely with our vet to provide proper treatment. Many rehabilitators such as myself take classes in veterinary technology to learn important skills. Our overall goal is to release the wildlife back into an appropriate natural habitat. We do not play with our wildlife. We want them to be ready for freedom from humans :)

Wildlife Rehabilitators may start their own facilities. Some rehabbers work out of their garage. Here at Fox Run we have dedicated buildings for wildlife and have established ourselves as a 501c3 non – profit organization. Other persons choose to volunteer for a wildlife rehabilitator. This person may or may not be licensed and comes in to assist on a mutually agreed upon schedule. A volunteer for an environmental center or rehabber gets many of the positives without baring as much of the costs and liabilities.

There are certainly many positives when being a wildlife rehabilitator. Rescuing an injured or orphaned baby and four - six months later watching that secure, healthy animal doing what nature intended – being wild and free. It’s a fabulous feeling. I find educating the public and sharing my love of wildlife with children is very rewarding. Rehabilitators play a crucial role in helping wildlife biologists track population and disease. I have worked two national studies to track diseases and populations.

Some of the challenges rehabbers have are the cost and the time it takes. Wildlife infants like human infants need frequent feedings and round the clock care. Baby wildlife require special baby formula, medical care and safe housing which requires money. Many wildlife rehabilitators are volunteers and pay for at least some of these expenses out of their own pocket. Some states offer stipends and grants. Some rehabilitators are employees at parks, environmental education centers or zoos. A degree in wildlife biology or zoology is important for these career positions. Many parks, environmental education centers and larger rehabilitation facilities offer internships. International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) has employment and internship listings on their website.

It is illegal in all states to rehabilitate animals without the proper permits. In Kentucky wildlife rehabbers are volunteers and by law must be licensed through the Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Each rehabber is required to take the class Basic Class in wildlife rehabilitation from IWRC plus classes for continuing education to become licensed. (NOTE: There will be a class offered in Murray Ky March 30-31) Migratory birds fall under the licensing of the US Dept of Fish and Wildlife for all states, and have additional requirements. 

Ame is willing to mentor new rehabbers who are interested in mammals and reptiles. You can volunteer or just set up a Tour to learn more about what we do. Ame has worked with several colleges so that students may earn credits while volunteering.