Career Development

What Does a Wildlife Rehabilitator Do?

Learn more about what it takes to succeed as a wildlife rehabilitator, the skills you'll need to become one, and what you can expect on the job.

Wildlife rehabilitators are responsible for the care of injured, sick or orphaned animals. They provide these creatures with food, shelter and medical attention until they’re healthy enough to be released back into their natural habitat.

Wildlife rehabilitators may work independently or as part of a larger organization. In either case, they must have a deep knowledge of animal biology and behavior in order to properly treat their patients.

Wildlife Rehabilitator Job Duties

Wildlife rehabilitators have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Observing animals’ behavior, interactions with each other, and reactions to stimuli in their environment in order to determine their best care plan
  • Providing medical treatment and care such as feeding animals, cleaning cages, administering medication, and performing surgery in some cases
  • Maintaining detailed records of treatments and observations of each animal’s progress over time
  • Transporting injured animals to veterinary offices or hospitals for further care by veterinarians
  • Identifying wildlife species by sight and sound, including their diet, mating patterns, habitat use, and migration patterns
  • Rehabilitating injured wildlife and releasing them back into their natural habitats
  • Educating the public about wildlife conservation and safety measures to prevent injury from animals
  • Providing educational programs to schools or community groups about animals and their habitats
  • Working with local authorities to remove potentially dangerous animals from populated areas

Wildlife Rehabilitator Salary & Outlook

Wildlife rehabilitators’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the size of the organization they work for, and the location of their job.

  • Median Annual Salary: $52,500 ($25.24/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $112,000 ($53.85/hour)

The employment of wildlife rehabilitators is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Wildlife rehabilitation services will be needed as more people move into areas where they live in proximity to wildlife. In addition, some states have enacted laws requiring injured or orphaned wildlife to be rehabilitated rather than euthanized.

Wildlife Rehabilitator Job Requirements

To become a wildlife rehabilitator, one typically needs to have the following:

Education: Wildlife rehabilitators need at least a bachelor’s degree in biology, zoology or wildlife management. These programs teach students about the biology of animals, animal behavior, animal nutrition, animal anatomy and physiology, animal diseases and animal welfare. They also teach students about the legal requirements of working with wildlife and the ethics of working with wildlife.

Many rehabilitators choose to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in wildlife biology or zoology. These programs teach students about the biology of wildlife species, wildlife diseases, wildlife nutrition, wildlife anatomy and physiology, wildlife welfare and wildlife conservation.

Training & Experience: Most wildlife rehabilitators receive on-the-job training from their supervisors. This training helps rehabilitators learn how to care for the animals in their facility and how to handle the daily operations of the organization.

Certifications & Licenses: A wildlife rehabilitator must be certified in first aid and CPR for public safety as well as basic life support. They must also pass a two-part exam that tests their knowledge of wildlife and the environment as well as their skills in handling and treating wildlife.

Some states also require wildlife rehabilitators to have a license.

Wildlife Rehabilitator Skills

Wildlife rehabilitators need the following skills in order to be successful:

Animal care: Wildlife rehabilitators must have extensive knowledge of animal care to provide the best care for the animals they rescue. This includes knowing how to handle and feed different types of wildlife, how to provide them with medical care and how to keep them safe and comfortable in their rehabilitation space.

Communication: Wildlife rehabilitators often communicate with other professionals, such as veterinarians, to ensure the health of the animals they treat. They also communicate with the public to educate them about wildlife rehabilitation and to encourage them to report injured animals.

Problem-solving: Wildlife rehabilitators often encounter challenges when caring for animals, such as when an animal is too sick to eat or when an animal is too aggressive to be handled. Wildlife rehabilitators solve these problems by researching solutions and implementing them. For example, if an animal is too sick to eat, a wildlife rehabilitator may research how to feed the animal intravenously.

Organization: Wildlife rehabilitators often have strong organizational skills, as they often have many responsibilities and tasks to complete. Having good organizational skills can help them stay on top of their work and ensure they complete all of their duties. It can also help them keep their facilities clean and safe for the animals they care for.

Adaptability: Adaptability is the ability to change and adjust to new situations. Wildlife rehabilitators often work in outdoor environments and may be exposed to weather conditions that may change throughout the day. They may also work with a variety of animals, some of which may be more challenging to care for than others. Being adaptable can help a wildlife rehabilitator be more successful in their job.

Wildlife Rehabilitator Work Environment

The work environment for a wildlife rehabilitator can be very demanding. They may work long hours, seven days a week, and often have to respond to emergencies. They may have to deal with difficult and dangerous situations, such as rescuing an animal from a car engine or from a high-rise building. They also have to handle the emotional stress of caring for injured or orphaned animals. Wildlife rehabilitators often work in isolation, and they may have to spend long periods of time outdoors in all weather conditions.

Wildlife Rehabilitator Trends

Here are three trends influencing how wildlife rehabilitators work. Wildlife rehabilitators will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

More Focus on the Health of Wildlife

As wildlife rehabilitation becomes more popular, there is a growing focus on the health of wildlife. This means that wildlife rehabilitators will need to be able to provide high-quality care that meets the needs of animals in both the short and long term.

In order to meet this demand, wildlife rehabilitators will need to be well-versed in a variety of techniques and have a deep understanding of animal behavior. They will also need to be able to work with other professionals, such as veterinarians and biologists, to ensure that the best possible care is provided to all animals under their care.

More Collaboration Between Agencies

Wildlife rehabilitation is an increasingly collaborative field, as agencies are working together to help injured and orphaned animals. This trend is likely to continue as more and more people become interested in helping wildlife.

As wildlife rehabilitators collaborate with each other, they will need to develop new methods for sharing information and resources. This will require them to be comfortable working with others and developing strong communication skills.

A Greater Emphasis on Education

The role of the wildlife rehabilitator is changing as society becomes more aware of the importance of conservation. In order to stay competitive, wildlife rehabilitators will need to focus on education and outreach.

This means that they will need to develop strong communication skills and be able to effectively communicate the importance of wildlife conservation to the public. They will also need to be able to create educational materials that can be used in schools and by other organizations.

How to Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

A career as a wildlife rehabilitator can be incredibly rewarding. It’s important to consider your personal interests and skills when planning your career path, but there are many ways to contribute to the conservation of wildlife.

You could work in a wildlife hospital or clinic, treating injured animals and releasing them back into the wild. You could also volunteer at a local wildlife rehabilitation center, learning about different species and helping with daily tasks.

Another option is to become a wildlife educator. This could mean teaching children about wildlife in a classroom setting, or leading outdoor education programs for adults.

You could also choose to work on policy issues related to wildlife conservation. This could include lobbying government officials for better protections for wildlife, or writing articles or giving interviews about wildlife conservation issues.


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