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The legalities of wildlife rehabilitation

All mammals and reptiles are protected by state laws, and state permits are required to rehabilitate them.
Note: Rabies Vector Species in NC are raccoon, fox, bat, skunk and coyote... and currently cannot be rehabilitated by anyone in NC

Some amphibians and fish are protected by state laws.

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 48 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.
The Migratory Bird Permit Office of the US Fish & Wildlife Service must be notified within 24 hours of acquiring a threatened or endangered migratory bird species, or bald or golden eagle, whether live or dead.

NC restrictions on 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.

US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) regulations for migratory birds

The Federal Regulation that addresses veterinarians is 50 CFR 21.12(d). It states that licensed veterinarians are not required to obtain a Federal migratory bird permit to temporarily possess, stabilize, or euthanize sick and injured migratory birds.  However, a veterinarian without a migratory bird rehabilitation permit must transfer any such bird to a federally permitted migratory bird rehabilitator within 24 hours after the bird's condition is stabilized, unless the bird is euthanized.  If a veterinarian is unable to locate a permitted rehabilitator within that time, the veterinarian must contact his or her Regional Migratory Bird Permit Office for assistance in locating a permitted migratory bird rehabilitator and/or to obtain authorization to continue to hold the bird.  

The local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services Office must be notified immediately upon receiving a threatened or endangered migratory bird species.  Contact information for Ecological Services offices can be located on the Internet at

Records must be kept for 5 years for all migratory birds that die while in veterinary care, including those they euthanized. The records must include:  the species of bird, the type of injury, the date of acquisition, the date of death, and weather the bird was euthanized.

Short-term housing must be away from pets and children. Long-term care (over 48 hours) must include housing as approved by the USFWS.

Patients with certain injuries must be humanely euthanized. Veterinarians play a key role in providing this valuable service to patients. Migratory bird regulation 21.31 states that any bird that is completely blind, cannot feed itself, perch upright, or ambulate without inflicting additional injuries to itself where medical and/or rehabilitative care will not reverse such conditions must be euthanized. Amputation of a leg, a foot, or a wing at the elbow or above (humero-ulnar joint) is not permitted without obtaining special approval from USFWS.

Authorization must be obtained from the Migratory Bird Permit Office before euthanizing endangered and threatened migratory bird species. Approval is also needed before disposing of or transferring any live or dead endangered or threatened migratory bird specimen, parts, or feathers. All dead bald and golden eagles, and their parts and feathers must be sent to: National Eagle Repository, Building 128, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Commerce City, CO 80022.

All dead specimens must be disposed of by means that prevent any exposure of the specimens to animals in the wild in accordance with 21.31(e)(4)(vi); and (3).

Blood may be drawn and other medical samples taken for purposes of the diagnosis and recovery of birds under care, or for transfer to authorized facilities conducting research pertaining to a contagious disease or other public health hazard.

Necropsies can be conducted on dead specimens, except approval must be obtained from the Regional Migratory Bird Permit Office before conducting necropsies on threatened or endangered species.

The rehabilitator is required to notify the local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Office if there is reason to believe a bird has been poisoned, electrocuted, shot, or otherwise subjected to criminal activity.

If the sickness, injury, or death of any bird is due or likely due to avian virus, or other contagious disease or public health hazard, you must notify and comply with the instructions given by the State or local authority that is responsible for tracking the suspected disease or hazard in your location, if that agency is currently collecting such information from the public.

Different types of permits – rehabilitation, education, fawn, salvage, captive breeding, research, falconry

The wildlife Rehabilitation permit does not cover fawns and bear. A special state permit is needed to rehabilitate fawns. The NCWRC maintains a list of people who have a fawn permit on their website at this link:
Requirements and an application form for the fawn permit are found at

The Wildlife Enforcement Division should be called in the case of orphaned black bear at 1-800-662-7137, or (919) 707-0040 for Wake County.

A state wildlife collection license and a federal salvage permit are needed to keep dead birds and parts of birds (including feathers). A rehabilitator may donate dead birds and parts thereof, except threatened and endangered species, and bald and golden eagles, to persons holding these permits.

A state wildlife captivity license and a federal education permit are needed to possess nonreleasable live birds for use in educational programs. A rehabilitator may place suitable birds with a person holding an education permit with prior approval from the issuing Migratory Bird Permit Office.
Birds that are blind, cannot perch or ambulate are not permitted for education. Amputation of a leg, a foot, or a wing at the elbow or above (humero-ulnar joint) is not permitted.

List of important phone numbers and websites                                                       
- WRNC (Wildlife Rehabilitators of North Carolina)
- NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC)    
- US Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta (USFWS)     1-404-679-7070 

More information
Information on the state rehabilitation permit is found at
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission's Veterinary Policy

The federal rehabilitation permit regulations and provisions are documented in the Code of Federal Regulations under Title 50-Wildlife and Fisheries, Part 21-Migratory Bird Permits, Subpart C-Specific Permit Provisions, 21.31-Rehabilitation Permits. Information on these regulations is found at


Permit information is provided by WRNC as a service to veterinarians in North Carolina. WRNC attempts to keep this information current, but the regulations may have changed since the last update. Each veterinarian is personally responsible for knowing the laws.