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Wildlife Rehabilitation Careers

What is Wildlife Rehabilitation?

Wildlife rehabilitators are professionals responsible for the care and treatment of injured, orphaned or displaced wildlife. The ultimate goal is to return healthy animals to the wild by fostering their release into appropriate habitats. Animals that cannot be released may be used for educational programs and outreach when appropriate. Consequently, those interested in rehabilitation careers should be knowledgeable in public speaking and environmental education, as well as animal husbandry.

Wildlife Rehabilitators

Wildlife rehabilitators are involved in all aspects of wildlife care, from intake to release back into the wild (hopefully). Rehabilitators work with the public, taking information when animals arrive into their facility and providing critical care or enlisting the help of their veterinarian when necessary. Rehabilitators are involved in feeding, care of wounds and injures, and the cleaning & maintenance of both the animals and the facilities. Institutions will require additional vaccines, such as rabies, to work with native animals that are considered rabies vector species. As animals grow and heal they may need to be exercised and gradually re-accustomed to the wild prior to release.

Wildlife rehabilitators also work with the public, whether they are involved in education, animal intake or simply dealing with people that call or come to their facility. They help to manage human-wildlife conflict, educating the public about wildlife needs and promoting good conservation practices.

Positions Overview

While paid positions exist, many wildlife rehabilitators work as volunteers, often running their own facilities. Of course, volunteers must still be fully trained in the proper care and handling of wildlife.

Wildlife rehabilitators work directly with animals in a rehabilitation facility. While rehabilitators generally work in private clinics or as part of a larger institution (such as a zoo, aquarium or museum), public agencies at the state and federal levels oversee, inspect, and advise clinics. Many facilities also employ educators to work with non-releasable wildlife in public programs. While some positions are paid, many rehabilitators are volunteers. Competition for paid positions can be keen, additional education and experience will give you the edge when you’re ready to seek employment. Some of the positions available in wildlife rehabilitation:

  • Wildlife rehabilitators

  • Marine mammal strandings

  • Education Coordinators

  • Wildlife Rehabilitation managers

  • Volunteer coordinators

  • Museum educators

  • Raptor rehabilitators

  • Animal care technicians

  • Nutritionists

  • Wildlife educators

  • Oil program coordinators

  • Animal hospital managers

  • Veterinary directors

  • Veterinarians

  • Veterinary technicians

Wildlife Educators

Wildlife educators may work with public school systems. They design and write educational programs for school children and should be comfortable with public speaking. Depending on the size of the institution, educators may deliver the programs themselves or train additional staff members to deliver programs. Many states have formal standards that the programs must meet; wildlife educators may spend time familiarizing themselves with the curriculum to ensure that their programs will be an integral part of the teachers' lesson plans. Thus, educators should have a good working knowledge of educational standards, animal training, and teaching methods.

Private rehabilitation facilities also provide educational programs to schoolchildren or to private groups such as camps or even birthday parties and similar events. The programs use live animals and/or animal artifacts to engage and teach.  Wildlife educators need a thorough understanding of the animals, their natural history, and their behavior.

Vets; Vet Techs

Veterinary assistants and technicians may work with veterinarians that provide services to wildlife clinics or rescue organizations. While clinic staff provides much of the medical care on site, outside veterinarians are needed for surgeries and any advanced procedures.

Professional Associations

If you have a professional interest in Wildlife Rehabilitation, you may want to explore one or more of these associations for additional information.

  • Animal Welfare Information Center

  • Animal Welfare Institute

  • Association of Professional Wildlife Educators

  • Enrichment & Refinement Databases (searchable)

  • Humane Society – State Agencies for Wildlife Rehabilitation

  • International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council

  • Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation (IWRC Members)

  • National Wildlife Federation – Resources for Educators

  • National Wildlife Rehabilitator Association

  • North American Association of Environmental Educators

  • Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary

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