Wildlife Rehabilitation as a Career
Whether you want to work with large or small animals, becoming a wildlife rehabilitator is a very hands-on, rewarding career choice.
In order to care for or work with animals, a degree is typically required in biology, animal anatomy or something along those lines, so that the basic understanding of animals has been grasped and enhanced.
The goal of wildlife rehabilitators is to work with the animals in question to get them back to where they can live independently in the wild. Therefore animal rehabilitators must possess an extensive knowledge of the species, its habitat and what it needs in order to survive.
Most wildlife rehabbers aren't veterinarians, but they do work with vets frequently. If a wild animal needs surgery, often the veterinarian will perform the surgery, and then the animal will recover at a wildlife center under the care of a wildlife rehabilitator.
Wildlife rehabilitators spend a lot of time reproducing natural environments for the animals in their care, ensuring that their charges will be fully prepared to fend for themselves once they are recovered from their injuries. They typically belong to the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association and/or the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. U.S. wildlife rehabilitators are licensed in the state in which they live and/or work, and are only licensed to care for animals native to that state.
Although there is no typical day for a wildlife rehabilitator, as they are the emergency medical technicians of the animal world, most daily duties include caring for and feeding animals, providing emergency medical support when necessary, assessing an animal's surroundings and living environment, educating the public (as often wildlife rehabbers work with endangered species), capturing and transporting injured wildlife.
There is also general business duties such as record keeping and writing reports.
Those who are squeamish might not enjoy this job, as part of it requires feeding animals what they would eat in the real world, which is most often other living creatures. Also, in the case of orphaned animals, wildlife rehabilitators become parents so to speak, teaching their charges how to take care of themselves.
Most wildlife rehabilitators get started by volunteering with their local zoo, animal shelter or city animal control department, where their charges may range from migratory birds, to much more exotic animals (in the case of zoos and such).
People who enter the field of wildlife rehabilitation do it purely for the fact that they can make a difference in the lives of the animals they work with. The pay, if there is any, can be low to moderate, and most of this work is done on a volunteer basis or to supplement other steady income.
Salary should not be the motivating factor when considering becoming a wildlife rehabber, as often the pay, if any, is a stipend or minimum wage.