Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator or Care Provider
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.
Steps to Becoming a Rehabilitator
Wildlife Rescue League offers advice on how to begin your journey to obtain one of three Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (VDWR) wildlife rehabilitation permits: 1) apprentice (Category I) 2) ,rehabilitator (Category II), and 3) care provider (Category IV). Care Providers must be age 16 or older and apprentices and rehabilitators must be 18 years or older. All permittees must be Virginia residents. Two additional VDWR permits include Wildlife Hospitals (Category IV) and Student/Interns (Category V). If you’re interested in one of the latter two permits, please reach out directly to VDWR for more information.
VDWR is responsible for the permit process and the best source of information regarding wildlife rehabilitation permits. You can access their website to learn all about the Virginia program for wildlife rehabilitation. For further information on the VDWR permit process, WRL is happy to answer questions about permit requirements and next steps. You can contact us at email@example.com.
Learn about Wildlife Rehabilitation
Read the articles on this website about wildlife rehabilitation. Visit a wildlife or nature center to learn more about Virginia’s native wildlife. This will help you decide what species you are best suited to care for. In Virginia, rehabilitators are licensed to care for reptiles, mammals and birds. Rehabilitation of migratory birds also requires a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Ensure you meet the physical requirements to rehabilitate wildlife in your home
Evaluate your current lifestyle
Answers to these questions will influence what will and won’t work for you, as well as shape your expectations of timing for your journey to become a wildlife rehabilitator.
Find a Sponsor for your Permit
If you are in the Northern Virginia and surrounding areas, WRL will assist you in contacting local rehabilitators to see if there is a match between your interests and their needs. If you are interested, please contact the chair of our WRL Rehabilitator Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you live elsewhere in Virginia, you can look for a permitted rehabilitator near you at Virginia DWR or nationally at National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association. Be respectful of the rehabilitator’s time, as they are volunteers and prioritize their time for the care and feeding of wildlife.
If you would like to rehabilitate migratory birds, you will also require a Federal permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services (USFWS) and will need a sponsor that has the same.
Complete 6 Hours of Continuing Education
Apply for a State Permit
After filing for a Category I apprentice permit, a VDWR CPO (Conservation Police Officer) will perform an in-home visit, and once approved, you may begin caring for healthy and orphaned animals in your home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do rehabilitators get paid?
How long does it take to become a licensed rehabilitator?
Are there costs involved in becoming a rehabilitator?
What are the requirements for caging and facilities?
Please read the VDWR Permit Conditions for specifics on caging and facilities. Short answer is that you need a space in your home dedicated to the care of wildlife with a) a door, b) away from the main living area, and c) the understanding that your family and pets will not access this space. The size of the space will vary depending on the type of animals you rehabilitate and your caging requirements. Your sponsor will advise you on the specifics, so you are ready for the home inspection by the game warden. Any outdoor caging may also need to be in place for your inspection.
What is Wildlife Rehabilitator Code of Ethics?
Please read the Wildlife Rehabilitator Code of Ethics here.
Interested in becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitator or Caregiver?
Check out the Department of Wildlife Resources website for more information.
If you are from the Northern Virginia area and surrounding counties, contact us at email@example.com to learn more about how to become a local wildlife permitted care provider, apprentice, or caregiver.