How to become a wildlife rehabilitator

Being a wildlife rehabilitator can be a big responsibility. Not only are you responsible for the welfare of the wild animals in your care, you also have the responsibility to provide good, accurate information to the public who approach you as the wildlife expert.

Although having a college or university degree is not mandatory in most cases to become a rehabilitator, we encourage you to study fields such as wildlife biology, ecology, wildlife conservation and veterinary science. These fields will provide you with essential skills and knowledge about an animal’s natural history, husbandry and dietary needs, as well as humane solutions to human-wildlife conflicts.

The Minimum Standards for Wildlife Rehabilitation document jointly published by IWRC and NWRA is a must-read. It is based on accepted norms in biology, medicine, behavior, natural history, and of course, wildlife rehabilitation. It includes the wildlife rehabilitator’s code of conduct, as well as provides useful information on appropriate cage sizes, disinfectants, and cage furniture while caring for wildlife undergoing rehabilitation. This publication can be purchased from our online store here.

Every country has its own laws pertaining to wildlife care, welfare and wildlife in captivity so it is important to consult with your local fisheries and wildlife officer or conservation officer.

We encourage you to volunteer at your local wildlife rehabilitation centre to mentor with a rehabilitator. This is a great way to learn about the needs of the wildlife you will care for as well as network with individuals working in the field.

Read a job description of wildlife rehabilitation, as reprinted from Becoming a Wildlife Professional.

Being a rehabilitator is a rewarding experience and we hope that you take the time to explore this profession.

If you are interested to learn more about IWRC’s live and online courses, click here to read about course descriptions and upcoming class schedules.

Find out more about wildlife legislation in different countries here.

The Details of Apply to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator

What you need for Apply to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator

Before you can apply to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, you must pass the Massachusetts Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit exam with a score of at least 80%. More information about the exam, as well as a study guide, can be found under the downloads section below.

For information

  • For information on permit prerequisites, exam details, and application procedures to become a wildlife rehabilitator, please email [email protected]
  • For already licensed wildlife rehabilitators looking for information on permit renewals and annual reporting, please email [email protected]

When you’re ready to take the exam

  • Contact the MassWildlife office where you plan to take the exam:

Fees for Apply to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator

Name Fee Unit
Wildlife rehabilitation permit $10 each

How to apply Apply to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator

By mail

After you have passed the exam, complete the attached permit application .

Mail in the permit application , along with a check or money order made payable to ” Comm. of MA – DFW ” to:

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
ATTN: Wildlife Rehab
1 Rabbit Hill Road
Westborough, MA 01581

More info for Apply to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator

Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Massachusetts (WRAM, Inc.), hosts meetings and provides a network for member wildlife rehabilitators.

The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to release injured and orphaned wildlife safely back into the wild.

Wildlife rehabilitators are individuals that have been granted wildlife rehabilitation permits in accordance with statute 10 V.S.A. § 5215(b) and regulation 10 V.S.A. App. § 9.

Becoming a wildlife rehabilitator requires a huge investment of time, money and heart. Rehabbers must receive extensive training and devote a considerable amount of space to the wildlife in their care.

The following information will help you understand the policies and protocols for licensure:

This booklet from the Wildlife Rehabilitator Recruiting Project provides a general overview.

A group of Vermont Information on an apprentice program sponsored by Wild in Vermont rehabilitators.

Vermont’s regulation regarding wildlife rehabilitation. For your own safety you need to learn them.

If you already have significant rehab experience you could submit this form now. If not, apprenticing is the smartest, safest and cheapest way to get started. Read it to understand what will be expected of you.

Use it as a checklist when interviewing rehabbers.

Beware, this is a large and detailed document, save it for last.

What to Do Next

  • Download and read the first four items listed above.
  • Make note of any questions you may have.
  • Call Nancy Carey (802-899-1027) to learn about becoming a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
  • Visit or call one or more of the licensed rehabilitators to gain their perspectives.
  • Ask questions—lots of questions—about the species they work with, gaps in species coverage in your area, costs involved, time commitment, paperwork, and what happens when animals die). Ask several rehabbers the same questions.
  • Once you feel ready to proceed, find a sponsor with whom you can apprentice. Apprenticing is the only way to fully appreciate the realities of wildlife rehabilitation without going to the expense of establishing your own wildlife care facility.

See also:

Wild In Vermont Inc
PO 163, Underhill Center, VT 05490
Visit Wild in Vermont on Facebook

Wildlife Rehabilitation in Florida

Wildlife rehabilitation is more than just "taking care of wild critters." It includes but is not limited to examination, diagnosis, treatment, proper and nutritious diet, safe and supportive captive surroundings, physical therapy, and pre-release conditioning of injured, orphaned and diseased wildlife. Veterinary assistance is engaged whenever medical treatment is needed. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to return recovered individuals to their natural habitats to live out successful and productive wild lives.

Most of the animals received at rehabilitation centers are sick, injured or orphaned not because of natural causes, but because of accidental or intentional (and frequently preventable) mischance with humans and our manipulations of the natural environment. For the injured bird, mammal or reptile that finds its way to a rehabilitator, whether it receives a new chance at life or a rapid end to its suffering, the rehabber makes a huge difference.

The majority of the animals treated and released are of common, not endangered, species. In terms of population biology, rehabilitation work has limited significance. Skeptics may ask, "Why rehabilitate? Why not just let nature take its course?" The answer is that, while our efforts may have small importance to an entire population, for each individual animal our efforts are crucial.

The very existence of permitted, trained wildlife rehabilitators ensures that caring people throughout the community will find skilled and willing help for wild animals in distress that they may encounter in the course of their daily lives. Whether it is a warbler that flew into a window pane or opossum babies orphaned when their mother was struck by a vehicle, relief is available. Thus rehabilitators provide a valuable service to concerned individuals and local, state and national organizations desiring to return animals to the wild and to reduce negative human impacts on the environment.

Public education is becoming a larger and larger part of the role of wildlife rehabilitators. Providing factual natural history information and exposing children and adults to a responsible attitude toward all living things are fundamental in our ever more crowded world. In addition, some rehabilitators are involved with research, captive breeding programs, law writing, and habitat preservation for imperiled species.

FWRA is a growing network of wildlife rehabilitators and related professionals in the State of Florida with a mandate to share information and support for the betterment of rehab and the preservation of our natural heritage.

How to Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator in Florida

State and Federal permits are required before anyone can rehabilitate wildlife. A state permit is required for all wildlife rehabilitation; an additional federal permit is required to rehabilitate migratory (native) birds. These permits do not allow an individual or organization to maintain non-releasable wildlife; additional state and federal permits are mandatory for this. To read more about Some Wildlife Possession Requirements visit:

To acquire a wildlife rehabilitation permit in Florida, you must be 18 years of age or older and have at least one year of experience and 1,000 hours working/volunteering with a permitted rehabber in the care of sick, injured or orphaned native wildlife. If you are unable to document the necessary experience, you are required to take a wildlife rehabilitation test. To learn more about requirements in Florida, visit

To view the movies that go with these handouts, click here.

Introduction to Wildlife Rehabilitation


Wildlife Rehabilitation Education and Study

Wildlife Rehabilitation Support and Networking

Application Process

When you feel you are ready,
submit your application to your local Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO)
(That information is supplied with your packet)

Along with the packet include:

A letter outlining your desire to become permitted as a wildlife rehabilitator,
which classes of animals you wish to rehabilitate (mammal, Raptors and non-raptor birds)
and any experience you have

A letter from your zoning administrator stating that wildlife rehabilitation is not forbidden on your property

A sponsorship letter from a licensed wildlife rehabilitator

A sponsorship letter from your veterinarian

Your WCO will contact you for a visit and interview.

On his approved submission of your application, you will be contacted to take a written test for each class of animals you wish to rehabilitate.

You will receive a letter from the PGC with the results (passing or not passing) of the written exam.

You will be contacted to meet with the Wildlife Rehabilitation council for an interview. At this interview, submit photos and videos of your facilities.

By mail, you will receive your state permit with instructions on reporting requirements –or– if denied, a letter stating so and why.

Application Process

Federal Migratory Birds

To rehabilitate migratory birds, you must then apply for a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service

How to become a wildlife rehabilitator

Building a career as a wildlife rehabilitator is a journey that will likely take you in several different directions over the course of your life. That won’t scare or dissuade an adventurous person, but it’s important to go into the challenge with eyes wide open.

First things first, wildlife rehabilitation involves caring for injured, ill, and orphaned wild animals with the goal of releasing each into its natural habitat.

“Each animal is examined, diagnosed and treated through an individually tailored program of veterinary care, hospital care, feeding, medicating, physical therapy, exercising and pre-release conditioning. Releases are planned for appropriate weather, season, habitat and location. Some animals, of course, are beyond help when found and are humanely euthanized,” according to the Minnesota Wildlife Assistance Cooperative.

At first glance, that description makes the career sound like one in which you’ll be working with sick or injured animals all day, every day. That’s a common misconception among those looking to get into the field so we dug into the research to unpack everything you need to know to become a wildlife rehabilitator.

Wildlife Rehabilitator Career: An Overview

It should go without saying that wildlife rehabilitators need to be able to think fast on their feet and have a strong grasp of animal biology to intake scared animals or triage animal injuries. Wild animals are different from domestic ones and being a successful wildlife rehabilitator requires an extensive knowledge of the unique history, nutrition, and behavior of the species with which they work.

In actuality, caring for animals makes up only about a third of a wildlife rehabilitator’s time. According to the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, on an annual basis, the job breaks down like this:

  • 35% – Caring for sick or injured animals
  • 35% – Working with the public on education or volunteer initiatives
  • 15% – Handling administrative tasks
  • 15% – Managing the wildlife rehab facility

How to become a wildlife rehabilitator

In fact, the IWRC says most employees end up being Jacks- and Jills-of-all-trades due to limited staffing, so often, wildlife rehabilitators will find themselves doing everything from construction and maintenance to habitat design and basic veterinary nursing. Entry-level wildlife rehabilitators can expect to spend most of their time planning and preparing food for the animals and cleaning laundry, dishes, and cages.

But, if you’re considering a career in wildlife rehabilitation so you can avoid humanity and spend your days mending broken wings, think again.

One of the most important aspects of the job is working with the public, according to the IWRC. “Rehabilitators are ambassadors between wildlife and the public …. A busy center may get over 100 phone calls on a spring day, which need support from skilled animal caregivers to assess whether an animal is exhibiting natural behavior or if it may need to be admitted. Every animal that stays in the wild and does not need to come into a wildlife rehabilitation center is a success story.”

Wildlife Rehabilitator Education Requirements

There is a lot of contradictory information out there regarding the education requirements to become a wildlife rehabilitator. So, for the record, right now you do not need a college degree to become a wildlife rehabilitator. But it sure helps.

While volunteers make up the vast majority of the individuals working at rehab centers, if you’re looking to build a career in this emerging field—i.e., earn a livable wage—you’ll need a college degree. The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association recommends a degree based in biology or ecology with a curriculum that includes ornithology, mammalogy, animal behavior, ecology, and related wildlife and environmental subjects.

According to the NWRA website, a college degree is not required to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator but a biology-related degree has several advantages:

  • It provides knowledge essential for quality hands-on animal care;
  • It develops an understanding of wildlife as is relates to humans and the environment;
  • It gives you an edge in this increasingly competitive field.

Like many other emerging environmental fields, states and provinces can also require a specific type of education, certification, or successful examination before issuing a license. So, be sure to check out the requirements in the state(s) you’re most likely to work in after graduation.

Wildlife Rehabilitator Salary

Wildlife rehabilitation centers are non-profit organizations or government agencies so pay scales fluctuate state to state. Your salary will largely depend on the political leanings of the particular state in which you work and the ability of facility administrators to raise outside funds.

According to IWRC, entry-level annual pay will range from $20,000 to $40,000, with some senior positions at larger facilities making more than $75,000 per year.

The Big Takeaway

Wildlife rehabilitation is an exciting new field that’s gaining momentum every year. Like anything new and undefined, there are many different ways to achieve what you want to achieve. As a student of Unity’s animal care degrees (see below) you’ll be perfectly placed to gain valuable experience through a volunteer placement or an intern/externship.

How to become a wildlife rehabilitator

Have you ever thought about rehabilitating wildlife?
Do you wonder if it’s right for you?

How to become a wildlife rehabilitator

Wildlife rehabilitators in Pennsylvania are badly needed but it’s not
for everyone. Many newly permitted rehabilitators quit within a few
years because of the cost, time and commitment involved.

To help you decide if wildlife rehabilitation is the right choice for
you and help direct you in how to get involved, Red Creek Wildlife
Center hosted an “Intro to Rehab” class — and you get to
attend for free! The class was converted into 4 movies to be viewed
at your convenience. In less than 2 hours you can get real insight
and search your soul about this wonderful and challenging vocation.

How to become a wildlife rehabilitator

How to become a wildlife rehabilitator

I have been a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for 20 years. I find the courses offered by Wildlife EDU to be extremely informative for rehabilitators with any level of experience. Peggy has an incredible talent for teaching, and the training is enjoyable and easy to understand. Whether you want to become a wildlife rehabilitator or are interested in expanding your current knowledge in the field, I highly recommend these courses.

Beth McMaster
Wildbird Recovery

The COMPLETE Course in Raising Neonatal Cottontails (8 hours)

Medical Math for the Wildlife Rehabilitator

Intake and Exam

Fluid Therapy

Wound Care, Bandaging and Splinting

Hygiene and Zoonosis

Wildlife Nutrition

Basic Avian Anatomy

Telephone Skills – Handling Wildlife Emergencies

Wildlife Capture and Transport

Threatened & Endangered Certification for Pennsylvania Wildlife Rehabilitators

Non-Profit Workshop

Helping Those Who Help Wildlife

“Great course, very informative, excellent resource material and presented with a healthy dose of humor. Nicely priced as well. Thank you, I have recommended this course to my fellow local rehabbers”

“This course was well worth the money. I feel so much more confident in my ability to calculate drug dosages and fluid therapy. I think that I will use the downloaded material over and over again until it becomes second nature to me. I have already recommended it to everyone in my rehab group. Thank you so much for providing this course. I will be looking forward to more like it.”

“As difficult a time I have with math, I completed it with your help and instruction. Your program is very helpful and user friendly.”

” you all offer great courses and the price is very reasonable . I hope to see more”

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to being a wildlife rehabilitator. For example, did you know that they make an average of $16.3 an hour? That’s $33,900 a year!

Between 2018 and 2028, the career is expected to grow 16% and produce 51,700 job opportunities across the U.S.

What Does a Wildlife Rehabilitator Do

There are certain skills that many wildlife rehabilitators have in order to accomplish their responsibilities. By taking a look through resumes, we were able to narrow down the most common skills for a person in this position. We discovered that a lot of resumes listed customer-service skills, detail oriented and problem-solving skills.

How To Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

If you’re interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. We’ve determined that 68.7% of wildlife rehabilitators have a bachelor’s degree. In terms of higher education levels, we found that 2.4% of wildlife rehabilitators have master’s degrees. Even though most wildlife rehabilitators have a college degree, it’s possible to become one with only a high school degree or GED.

Choosing the right major is always an important step when researching how to become a wildlife rehabilitator. When we researched the most common majors for a wildlife rehabilitator, we found that they most commonly earn bachelor’s degree degrees or associate degree degrees. Other degrees that we often see on wildlife rehabilitator resumes include high school diploma degrees or master’s degree degrees.

You may find that experience in other jobs will help you become a wildlife rehabilitator. In fact, many wildlife rehabilitator jobs require experience in a role such as internship. Meanwhile, many wildlife rehabilitators also have previous career experience in roles such as volunteer or vet assistant.

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