Exotic Animal/Wildlife Veterinary Technician Job Description

What is a Wildlife Veterinary Technician?

Just as in pet veterinary medicine, veterinary technicians that specialize as the animal’s nurse and assistant to the veterinarian. With a specialty in wildlife, veterinary technicians work with wild animals often in zoos, aquariums, and other exotic animal facilities. Such a career can have you treating hundred of species, from sea turtles and dolphins to giraffes and lions.

what is a veterinary technician

Sharp-shinned Hawk receiving treatment, Photo used under Flickr Creative Commons License, photo by dobak

Wildlife Veterinary Technician Job Duties

Wildlife veterinary technicians work closely with both the zookeepers and animal caretakers as wells as the veterinarian. In smaller facilities, the zookeeper or animal caretaker  will often serve as the veterinary technician.

Job duties can include:

  • Capture and restraint of animals for exam and treatment
  • Tranquilizing animals using darts
  • Assisting in medical exams
  • Assisting in surgical procedures
  • Transport of animals to veterinary facility
  • Responsible for medical supplies including inventory and use during procedures
  • Assist in breeding programs
  • Assist in training wild animals for husbandry procedures
  • Educating pet owners on proper nutrition, housing, and other care of their exotic pet
  • Taking x-rays, blood, and other tests
  • Giving vaccines and other medications

Working Conditions

Because the animals being cared for can be large, veterinary care often happens in the animal’s enclosure. This means the veterinary technician must be able to adapt to any environment and set up medical equipment and other supplies necessary to examine, treat, and even for surgical procedures in the enclosure. Weekend and evening work is expected, sometimes on an emergency basis. Overnight monitoring of sick, injured, or laboring animals is also required at times.

Sick and injured wild animals often display unpredictable and protective behavior making this job dangerous at times. Serious injury and exposure to zoonotic diseases are an inherent risk of the job.

Exotic Animal/Wildlife Veterinary Technician Salary

Although this is a demanding and rewarding career, it is not a high paying career. Wages range from starting at minimum wage to about $25 an hour for seasoned professionals.  Getting higher degrees and certifications can help increase your earning potential. Also, larger facilities and government employment will usually have higher pay.

Education and Experience Requirements

You will need a degree and hands-on experience to start your career in this field. You can opt to get a 2-year associates degree or 4-year bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. Most states also require that all veterinary technologists become certified or licensed. If you have wildlife as part of your career goals, then choose from vet tech degree programs that includes exotic animals as part of its coursework and training.

Desirable Skills

Few exotic veterinary technician positions are available. At the same time, there is no shortage of people interested and qualified for such positions when they do become available. Gaining hands on experience with wild animals and large hoof stock animals, such as horses and cattle, is strongly recommended to be competitive. If you do not have such experience, volunteering for a local wild animal facility such as a zoo or wildlife rehabilitation center will give you the start you need in this career.

Where to Find Exotic Animal/Wildlife Veterinary Assistant Jobs

You can find exotic animal/wildlife veterinary technician jobs at zoos, wildlife facilities, government agencies, universities, and sometimes pet veterinary hospitals. Many people own pet reptiles and parrots, giving you opportunities outside of zoos for working with wild animals in the veterinary field. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and American Association Zoo Keepers will list veterinarian technician positions available in zoos and aquariums.

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