Frequently Asked Questions
- Veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators – why do they need each other?
- What is a wildlife rehabilitator?
- How do I locate a licensed rehabilitator in my area?
- What are the legalities of wildlife rehabilitation?
- Can rabies vector species be rehabilitated?
- What medical & surgical care are needed for wildlife?
- How long can a bird be kept at the veterinary clinic?
- What triage should be done at the veterinary clinic?
- How should wildlife be housed at the veterinary clinic
- What long-term housing and care is needed?
- When should wildlife be euthanized?
- Can non-releasable animals be placed in captive programs?
- How do I become a wildlife rehabilitator?
- What are the publications on wildlife rehabilitation?
- What continuing education is available to veterinarians on treating wildlife?
Veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators – why do they need each other?
Wildlife rehabilitation is a profession which requires dedication, compassion, knowledge of wildlife and natural history, communication skills, and a willingness to continuously learn and improve. A successful rehabilitation program requires that licensed rehabilitators work closely with veterinarians, supporting each other in their respective roles.
Veterinarians spend years learning to diagnose and treat sick and injured pets and other animals. They have the medical training, surgical skills, access to medications and diagnostic equipment, and connections to vendors. They can provide important guidance to rehabilitators in the medical management of wildlife patients. As such, veterinarians are an integral part of any successful rehabilitation program.
Wildlife rehabilitators have husbandry skills specific to the type of animal under their care. This includes knowledge of the natural history of the patients, appropriate handling and restraint techniques, nutritional needs, hand-rearing techniques that ensure proper socialization of orphaned animals, and facilities isolated from human traffic.
Both partners are vital to a successful wildlife rehabilitation program!
What is a wildlife rehabilitator?
Wildlife rehabilitators come from all walks of life, but have a few things in common. They are persons with dedication and training in the proper care of injured and orphaned native wildlife. They have to obtain permits to care for wildlife. They often work out of their home or in some cases at a central facility, and the great majority do not get paid. They rely on the community for support in the form of donations, supplies, equipment, and volunteers. Most of them work full-time jobs to support this second career as a wildlife rehabilitator.
How do I locate a licensed rehabilitator in my area?
To find help for injured wildlife in North Carolina, go to the homepage of this website (www.ncwildliferehab.org) and click on members, then select the county. A member directory and search are also provided in the veterinary section of this site. See Find Rehabilitator in the veterinary section. You may also check the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) website (http://www.ncwildlife.org/fs_index_06_coexist.htm) to find rehabilitators who have NC permits.
A nationwide listing exists and can be accessed through the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) website (http://www.nwrawildlife.org)
What are the legalities of wildlife rehabilitation?
All mammals, reptiles and some amphibians and fish are protected by state laws, and state permits are required to rehabilitate them.
Note: Rabies Vector Species in NC include raccoon, fox, bat, skunk and coyote. They currently cannot be rehabilitated by anyone in NC
All native birds are protected by state and federal laws and permits are required by anyone, including veterinarians, to hold a migratory bird for more than 24 hours. This covers all native species of wild birds including songbirds, waterfowl, wading and shore birds, and raptors.
Exempt from these regulations are non-native birds (pigeons, starlings, house sparrows, and domestic and exotic birds) and non-native mammals and reptiles.
For more information on the legalities of wildlife rehabilitation see the Legalities section of this site.
Can rabies vector species be rehabilitated?
No, rabies vector species (bats, foxes, raccoons, skunks and coyotes) cannot be rehabilitated in NC. Even orphaned suckling animals of these species have been known to transmit rabies and rehabilitators are not permitted to rehabilitate them.
Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control 2008 at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5702a1.htm?s_cid=rr5702a1_x
What medical & surgical care are needed for wildlife?
In order to be able to provide quality medical care to their patients, wildlife rehabilitators must have access to the expertise of a local veterinarian. This includes access to restricted medications such as antibiotics, as well as access to radiographs, diagnostic laboratory tests, surgical repairs and euthanasia.
How long can a bird be kept at the veterinary clinic?
Federal regulations require that a migratory bird be transferred to a licensed rehabilitator within 24 hours.
What triage should be done at the veterinary clinic?
For more information on triage see the Triage section of this site.
How should wildlife be housed at the veterinary clinic?
In order to reduce stress wildlife should be housed in a dark, quiet place. They should be kept away from other patients as much as possible. Cover cages/carriers to reduce visual stimuli. Pain control is paramount for humane treatment of wild species. Wild animals with injuries often remain for hours at the vet hospital, in a box or cage until a rehabilitator can get it. Many of the drugs used for pain control in dogs and cats (narcotics, NSAIDs, etc) can be used safely and effectively in wild species.
Pain Management in Wildlife Rehabilitation. Wildlife Rehabilitation Bulletin, Volume 20, No 2, Fall/Winter 2002.
Pain Management in Wildlife rahabilitation by Trudi Chepey, DVM. Wildlife Rehabilitation Bulletin. Volume 22, No. 2, Fall/Winter 2004.
Pain Management in Wildlife Rehabilitation by Florina S. Seng, DVM. Topics in Wildlife Medicine, Emergency and Critical Care. Volume 2 2007
What long-term housing and care is needed?
Once beyond the intensive care stage, wildlife patients have to be housed according to their species-specific needs. This will include space to exercise during recuperation.
Proper rehabilitation techniques emphasize very limited contact with people and no contact with pets. Even other wildlife can be a threat, because it may be a natural predator to the patient.
The evaluation for release involves the answer to many questions - can this animal perform normal activities for the species such as walking, running, climbing, diving, swimming, perching, flying, preening, migrating, locating and catching food, nest building and defending its territory.
When should wildlife be euthanized?
The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is not to simply keep patients alive. Instead, the goal is to return them to the wild in a condition that allows them to be a productive part of the environment.
Because of their wild nature, dietary and housing requirements, injured wildlife patients have to be treated according to a different set of standards when compared to domesticated or exotic animals. For example, an amputation of any kind is usually not appropriate in a bird slated for release to the wild.
Not all wildlife patients can be returned to the wild. Injuries may be so extensive that humane euthanasia is the only good option. In these cases, euthanasia should not be viewed as a failure. Veterinarians can humanely and legally euthanize wildlife if the nature of the case indicates it.
Those patients that cannot be released back into the wild because of physical injuries or behavioral problems may or may not make good candidates as captive educational animals. Bird rehabilitators must adhere to very specific USFWS guidelines that dictate euthanasia for certain medical problems. Wildlife patients that are completely blind or that require amputation of an entire limb, for instance should not be kept alive. Even in captivity, these animals should have good quality of life.
AVMA's Guidelines on Euthanasia includes information on euthaniasia of wild species: http://www.avma.org/issues/animal_welfare/euthanasia.pdf
Dealing [with] Death: Psychological Aspects of Euthanasia in Wildlife Rehabilitation by Diane Winn, PH.D. Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation, Summer 2002, Volume 25, Number 2
Euthanasia in Wildlife by Joanne Richards, DVM. Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation. Volume 16, No .3. (Reprinted as chapter 17 in Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation 1AB)
Can non-releasable animals be placed in captive programs?
Some animals, if deemed non-releasable due to their injuries, may be suitable for life in captivity. Additional permits (state, federal, or both) are required to care for such long-term captive animals. Contact the NCWRC in Raleigh and the regional office of the USFWS in Atlanta for details and applications.
The IWRC website has a nationwide placement service for non-releasable animals.
How does one become a wildlife rehabilitator?
Training classes are offered by Wildlife Rehabilitators of North Carolina. Several organizations also offer training in their local area. See http://ncwildliferehab.org/training2/training.php for a list of available classes.
For all native wildlife species, a state permit is required and has to be submitted as part of the application for federal permits for bird rehabilitation.
State permits are issued by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). This is the link to the page on their site that lists various permits including the Wildlife Rehabilitation permit: http://www.ncwildlife.org/fs_index_01_license.htm
This is the link to the permit application found on that page:
Obtaining a federal permit to rehabilitate birds requires documented training with a licensed individual or facility. A good first step would be to volunteer under someone’s permit and learn the basics – identification, handling, anatomy, natural history, dietary and caging requirements. Consider attending wildlife conferences, joining professional organizations, building a reference library and establishing key relationships within your community.
Federal permits are issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is the link to the permit application and instructions found on their site:
What are the publications on wildlife rehabilitation?
Wildlife Rehabilitation Bulletin, a quarterly journal published by the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA)
Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation, a journal by the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC)
Many symposium proceedings, manuals and other reference materials are available for sale by the NWRA and IWRC
What continuing education is available?
For information on continuing education visit the CE Education section of this site.