All You Need to Know About Becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitator

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If you adore wildlife and always try to rehabilitate endangered animals, consider becoming a “wildlife rehabilitator.” Wildlife rehabilitators have the knowledge required to care for numerous animal species. As such, they can work alongside zoos, non-profit rehabilitation centers, and even governmental agencies.

This article gives an in-depth overview of wildlife rehabilitators, the path to becoming one, and frequently asked questions about this career.

Ready to know more? Let’s get the ball rolling!

All You Need to Know About Becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitator


A wildlife rehabilitator is an individual that can evaluate and provide adequate care to sick, orphaned, and injured animals. Their goal? Nursing endangered species back to normalcy and returning them to the wild. Most wildlife rehabilitators work alongside veterinary doctors to ensure that these animals have what it takes to survive in their natural environment.

Wildlife rehabilitators work with many animals, ranging from mammals to reptiles and birds. Also, they must be creative and have extensive knowledge about the nutritional needs of wild animals. As seen on the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) website, these activities consume the average wildlife rehabilitator’s time:

  • Animal care35%
  • Working in the public domain — 35%
  • Executing administrative tasks (i.e., filling records and documenting treatment progress) — 15%
  • Facility management — 15%

Most wildlife rehabilitators work at non-profit organizations and zoos. However, certain rehabilitators are associated with 24/7 emergency response teams that care for endangered animals in regions experiencing wildfires, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, and oil spills.


Becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitator: What Does This Process Entail?

Although there’s no definite guide to becoming a wildlife rehabilitator, the following steps are essential to becoming one:

#1 Collect the Right Vaccinations and Permits

As a wildlife rehabilitator working at a privately-owned or governmental rehabilitation center, you’ll come in contact with different animals, including those hosting infectious diseases like rabies.

Due to the risk posed by these diseases, it’ll be best to stay vaccinated and be safe during your daily run-ins with different animals. Additionally, vaccinations ensure you don’t transfer any illness to wild creatures you encounter.

Although you might have extensive knowledge about different wild animals, you’ll need several permits to operate within the confines of specific regions and states. Therefore, make inquiries to ascertain what variations will help you execute rehabilitation activities without hiccups, regardless of location.

#2 Gather Experience

While there’s no set degree crucial to becoming a proven wildlife rehabilitator, knowledge in biology, wildlife conservation, ecology, and veterinary science is a plus. Insight into these fields grants you the knowledge to administer treatment, curate an efficient dietary plan, and resolve human-wildlife conflicts.

Furthermore, reading the Standards for Wildlife Rehabilitation — a resource jointly curated and published by the US National Wildlife Rehabilitators Administrators (NWRA) and IWRC — is a must. This resource features codes of ethics and operational procedures wildlife rehabilitators must abide by when executing their duties.

#3 Receive Certification

To become a recognized wildlife rehabilitator, you’ll need the Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator (CWR) certification. To receive this certificate, applicants must take and scale through the CWR test and examination.

During the program, rehabilitators can become specialized in a distinct animal category (i.e., reptiles or mammals).

NOTE: CWR certification doesn’t automatically translate to licensure. To become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, fulfill requirements specific to your region or state.

#4 Choose Your Preferred Work Place and Apply for Wildlife Rehabilitator Jobs

As a wildlife rehabilitator, you can work in zoos, non-profit organizations, museums, and aquariums. However, it’s up to you to decide what spot lets you utilize your skills effectively.

After determining where you’d like to work, kick-start your job search in related entities. Although location is essential during job hunting, factor in the skills and certifications required by employers.

Wildlife rehabilitator jobs abound in populated areas. Nonetheless, due to the competitive nature of this sector, endeavor to get the right skills and certificates to back up your experience. With these add-ons, your chances of earning gainful employment increase.

Becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitator: Frequently Asked Questions

According to Comparably, the average salary of a wildlife rehabilitator is $28,094. Notably, rehabilitators in San Francisco earn a minimum of $40,950, trumping the national average by 46%.

Yes, you can. By volunteering or interning at a zoo, veterinary clinic, or animal rescue and rehabilitation center, you can care for different wild animals efficiently.

Unlike domesticated animals, wild creatures act erratically. Their actions can result in scratch wounds and bites. Thus, wildlife rehabilitators must protect themselves by wearing hand gloves and being conscious of an animal’s behavior and movements. 

Parting Shot

If nursing wild animals back to health and reintroducing them to their natural habitat tickles your fancy, becoming a wildlife rehabilitator grants you an outlet to execute related activities.

To get started on this career path and earn a decent-paying job, follow the steps listed in this article. Not all heroes wear capes — and you could be one as a “wildlife rehabilitator.”

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