Wildlife Rehabilitation

What is a Wildlife Rehabilitator?

A wildlife rehabilitator is a person licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia (and in some cases by the Federal Government as well) to rehabilitate sick, injured and orphaned wildlife in order to release them back into the wild. In Virginia, most wildlife rehabilitators work from their own homes. They do not receive payment for their services. Care Providers assist rehabilitators, but do not keep animals in their homes. Rehabilitators must be at least 18 years old; care providers, at least 16 years old.

Why it matters

Each year thousands of sick, injured and orphaned animals get a second chance at life, thanks to Virginia’s wildlife rehabilitators. Most of these animals are injured as a result, either directly or indirectly, of human actions. The number of animals in need of help is overwhelming, and more dedicated people are needed to care for them until they can be returned to the wild.

Ecosystem Health

Wildlife rehabilitation contributes to keeping ecosystems intact by protecting the species that comprise them. Every species has a role in the ecosystem that helps the whole ecosystem to function.

Responsible Stewardship of Wildlife

Wildlife is everyone’s responsibility. Wildlife rehabilitation helps animals impacted by human activities. Humans have the ability to completely alter the natural world which can damage native habitats and harm animals. Taking action to undo the harm caused by human actions will protect ecosystems and make sure our wildlife populations stay healthy.


All life depends on a fully functional planet to survive and thrive. Biodiversity, the vast array of plants, animals, and ecosystems, is the life support system of our planet and underpins the healthy ecosystems that provide us food, clean air and water, stable climate, and medicines. No one animal exists in isolation – not even us. Removing just one native species can have a cascading effect on the surrounding ecosystem.

Find a Wildlife Rehabilitator in your state

Find a list of wildlife rehabilitators, wildlife centers and rescue groups in your state. 

How to Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

The following requirements are for those interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator in the State of Virginia. If you live outside of Virginia, please use our list of rehabilitation resources to find appropriate resources in your state.

1. Complete 6 Hours of Continuing Education

Complete 6 hours of continuing education.

2. Set Up a Designated Space

Have your designated space for wildlife set up and ready for inspection.

3. Apply for a State Permit

Apply for a permit from Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and pass an in-home inspection.

4. Complete 2-Year Apprenticeship

Complete a 2-year apprenticeship, during which you may care for healthy orphaned animals in your home.

How Wildlife Rescue League supports Wildlife Rehabilitators

Wildlife Rescue League is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the work of wildlife rehabilitators located throughout the Northern Virginia and surrounding areas.All our services are performed by volunteers and offered free of charge to the members of the public.

Field calls from the public

Wildlife Rescue League runs a Wildlife Helpline that fields calls from the public and provides information, resources and referrals to area rehabilitators and veterinary clinics.

Transport Wildlife

Volunteers also transport wildlife from area veterinary clinics to rehabilitatators, saving them time that can be spent on caring for the wildlife in their possession.

Provide Supplies

Wildlife Rescue League provides rehabilitators with supplies such as meal worms, food, medicine, animal housing, incubators, baby warmers and other equipment.

How you can help

Wildlife Rescue League does not receive any local, state or federal funding. We are totally dependent on donations from the public.


Your donations directly support the work of wildlife rehabilitators. Make a one-time or monthly donation to give sick and injured animals a second chance at life.

Make a donation


Become a volunteer with Wildlife Rescue League. You can answer calls from the helpline, transport wildlife or assist the organization with multiple administrative responsibilities.

Apply to volunteer with WRL

Become a rehabilitator

Become a wildlife rehabilitator or care provider.

Learn how to get started

Become a Member

Join Wildlife Rescue League as a member! Membership benefits include invites to wildlife-related classes and workshop as well as member-only meetings.

Become a member

Other ways to support

There are many ways you can support the work of wildlife rehabilitators. From sewing hammocks and knitting nests to donating items from our wish list.

See other ways to support wildlife rehabilitators

Wildlife Rescue League - Viriginia
Wildlife Helpline 703-440-0800