Is becoming a wildlife rehabilitator right for me?

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How to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

Becoming a wildlife rehabilitator involves several steps, including education, gaining experience, obtaining necessary permits, and networking within the wildlife rehabilitation community. Here's a general guide on how to become a wildlife rehabilitator:

  • Education: Start by obtaining a solid foundation in biology, ecology, animal sciences, zoology, or a related field by earning a bachelor's degree. While a degree is not always required to become a wildlife rehabilitator, having a background in a relevant field can be beneficial for understanding wildlife biology, anatomy, physiology, and behavior.
  • Gain Experience: Gain hands-on experience working with wildlife by volunteering or interning at wildlife rehabilitation centers, animal shelters, veterinary clinics, or conservation organizations. This experience will provide valuable insights into the care and handling of wildlife, as well as the challenges and rewards of working in the field.
  • Obtain Permits: Research the legal requirements for wildlife rehabilitation in your state, as regulations vary by location. In many states, wildlife rehabilitators are required to obtain permits or licenses from state wildlife agencies or other regulatory bodies. Familiarize yourself with the permitting process and any training or certification requirements for becoming a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
  • Training and Certification: Consider participating in training programs, workshops, or courses specifically designed for wildlife rehabilitators. These programs can provide valuable knowledge and skills in wildlife handling, first aid, medical care, nutrition, and rehabilitation techniques. Some organizations, such as the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA), offer certification programs for wildlife rehabilitators.
  • Network and Volunteer: Network with other wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians, biologists, and conservationists to learn from their experiences and build connections within the wildlife rehabilitation community. Volunteer or intern at wildlife rehabilitation centers to gain practical experience and demonstrate your commitment to the field.
  • Start Small: Begin by rehabilitating smaller and less complex wildlife species, such as songbirds, squirrels, or rabbits, before advancing to larger or more specialized species. Start small and gradually expand your skills and experience as you gain confidence and expertise in wildlife rehabilitation.
  • Continuing Education: Stay updated on the latest developments, techniques, and best practices in wildlife rehabilitation by participating in continuing education opportunities, attending conferences, and reading relevant literature. Wildlife rehabilitation is a dynamic field, and ongoing learning is essential for providing the best care for wildlife patients.

Certifications, Training, and Memberships
There are several certifications, training programs, and professional memberships available for wildlife rehabilitators to enhance their skills, knowledge, and credibility in the field.

  • National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA): NWRA offers membership and certification programs for wildlife rehabilitators, including the Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator (CWR) and Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator-Advanced (CWR-A) designations. These certifications demonstrate a level of expertise and commitment to ethical and professional standards in wildlife rehabilitation.
  • International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC): IWRC offers training programs, workshops, and conferences for wildlife rehabilitators, as well as certification options such as the Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator (CWR) and Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator-Medical (CWRM) credentials. IWRC's certification programs focus on practical skills and knowledge relevant to wildlife rehabilitation.
  • State Wildlife Agencies: Some state wildlife agencies offer certification or permitting programs for wildlife rehabilitators, which may include training requirements, exams, and ongoing education. Contact your state wildlife agency or department of natural resources for information on certification or licensing requirements in your state.
  • Wildlife Rehabilitation Training Programs: Various organizations and institutions offer training programs, workshops, and courses specifically designed for wildlife rehabilitators. These programs may cover topics such as wildlife handling, medical care, nutrition, rehabilitation techniques, and legal and ethical considerations.
  • Continuing Education: Participating in continuing education opportunities, such as workshops, webinars, conferences, and online courses, can help wildlife rehabilitators stay updated on the latest developments, techniques, and best practices in the field. Many professional organizations and wildlife rehabilitation centers offer continuing education opportunities for wildlife rehabilitators.

Internships or Apprenticeships
Internships can provide valuable hands-on experience and training for aspiring wildlife rehabilitators. While opportunities may vary depending on location, season, and availability, here are some types of organizations that may offer internships:

  • Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers: Many wildlife rehabilitation centers across the US offer internships for individuals interested in gaining experience in wildlife rehabilitation. These centers provide hands-on training in caring for injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife, under the supervision of experienced rehabilitators.
  • Zoos and Aquariums: Some zoos and aquariums offer internships or volunteer opportunities in their wildlife rehabilitation departments. These programs may focus on caring for injured or abandoned animals, including native wildlife species, as well as providing education and outreach to visitors.
  • Non-Profit Organizations: Non-profit organizations dedicated to wildlife conservation and rehabilitation may offer internships for individuals interested in working with wildlife. These organizations may focus on specific species or ecosystems, such as birds of prey, marine mammals, or endangered species.
  • Government Agencies: State or federal wildlife agencies may offer internships or volunteer opportunities in their wildlife rehabilitation programs. These agencies may be involved in wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, research, or conservation efforts, and internships may provide exposure to a variety of wildlife-related activities.
  • Veterinary Clinics: Some veterinary clinics, especially those with a focus on wildlife or exotic animal medicine, may offer internships or externships for individuals interested in wildlife rehabilitation. These opportunities may provide exposure to medical care, diagnostics, and treatment for wildlife patients.
  • Universities and Research Institutions: Universities and research institutions with wildlife biology or veterinary medicine programs may offer internships or research opportunities in wildlife rehabilitation. These programs may involve fieldwork, data collection, and research projects related to wildlife health and conservation.