Raptor Education Group, Inc.
What is a Wildlife Rehabilitator?
Immature Peregrine Falcon from Wausau. X-rays were taken and the bird suffers from a broken wing.
This is probably the most frequent question asked of wildlife rehabilitators. It is also the hardest to answer. It is difficult to explain in a few concise sentences. The truth is the profession is relatively new on the scene and is still struggling to come up with its own description.
Wildlife rehabilitators wear many hats. During the course of a single day wildlife rehabilitators function as animal caretakers, nutritionists, behaviorists, emergency medical technicians, naturalists, natural historians, educators, secretaries, animal housing specialists, capture and transport specialists for injured wildlife, and record keepers, providers of legal expertise and assist the public with wildlife issues. We do not get financial assistance from state or federal agencies. In fact, most wildlife centers are self supported or supported by donations only.
It is a mistake to assume that wildlife rehabilitators are all veterinarians. That is not the case. It is also true that most veterinarians, unless they are wildlife veterinarians, are not wildlife rehabilitators nor are they equipped to handle wild species. Wild animals have very different needs than domestic animals. The focus on caring for wild species is to keep them wild so they will return to the wild. Everything from handling to housing and food offered is specific to the individual species.
In the United States, wildlife rehabilitators are licensed or permitted by the state or federal government to care for native wildlife. Mammals and reptiles, unless endangered species, are handled by the states in which we work. Therefore, a state permit is required to care for native mammals, marsupials, and reptiles. To care for such animals without a permit is illegal.