Wildlife Rehabilitator Job Duties
Working as a wildlife rehabilitator is one of those jobs in wildlife that will have you working directly with animals. The central goal of a wildlife rehab center is to provide care for sick and injured local wildlife and then release those animals back into the wild. The job duties are diverse in these positions as typically every staff member does all the duties at some point. Some wildlife rehabilitators and wildlife rehabilitation programs focus on specific groups of animals such as marine mammals or raptors. Some also have specialized training and part of organized oil spill response teams. Depending on the equipment available at the facility, those duties can include:
- *Cleaning cages and other housing on a daily basis
- Feeding animals
- Building and maintaining housing structures
- Examining animals and determining the best course of treatment
- Treating wounds and giving medications
- Public education
- Permit and licensing processing
- Documentation and record keeping for every animal
- Assisting during surgical procedures
- Drawing and analyzing blood samples
- Preparing and analyzing fecal samples
- Euthanizing animals that cannot survive their injuries
Wildlife rehabilitation centers are open year round to care for the wildlife. However, the busy season comes with spring. Centers may have a handful of animals to care for on any given day in the winter and hundreds to care for each day during the spring to fall months. Baby animals and summertime related diseases, such as botulism, result in the increased number of wild patients. Summer hours can be long and easily surpass eight or even 10 hours a day. Most patients in wildlife rehabilitation centers are birds.
This job entails working indoors and outdoors in all weather conditions. Wildlife rehabilitators can expect to get bit, scratched, and defecated on regularly. There is also the risk of exposure to zoonotic diseases.
Since these animals must survive in the wild and not be trained to look to humans as a food source or befriend humans, staff must not treat the animals as pets. In addition, such treatment can cause additional stress on the animals as they are not used to captivity. Talking to and petting animals is not encouraged and may be cause for dismissal in some facilities.
This job can be emotionally draining. Staff and volunteers regularly work with animals injured or sickened due to human activities and many will not survive despite the best efforts of staff and volunteers.
Wildlife Rehabilitator Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that animal caretakers in general, for which the position of wildlife rehabilitator falls, make on average about $21,000 a year. This is probably about right for an average wildlife rehabilitator salary. Most wildlife rehabilitation centers run primarily with volunteer staff. Entry-level wildlife rehabilitation technicians can expect to earn minimum wage to about $10 an hour. Managers and directors may earn $15 to $20 an hour in these types of jobs in wildlife.
Education and Experience Requirements
Probably most in this field start out volunteering with animals in a rehabilitation center before getting a paid wildlife rehab center job. Some come from other unrelated fields and made this a career change. Others with wildlife rehabilitation jobs come with a wildlife biology degree, or degrees in veterinary medicine, zoology, and other related disciplines. A highly qualified candidate for this position will have both education and experience. Although some wildlife rehab centers will look more closely at experience as you must have hands-on experience to do well a wildlife rehabilitator. Also, attendance at wildlife rehabilitation trainings, seminars, and conferences is typically required both before and after getting hired as part of continuing education in the field.
Additional skills of a highly qualified candidate include public speaking, customer service, veterinary medicine, knowledge of proper and safe restraint techniques for each species, natural history knowledge of each species, federal and state laws and regulations regarding the temporary housing and care of each species, and construction knowledge.
Where to Find Wildlife Rehabilitation Jobs
Volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center will be the best way to learn of local jobs. Often the volunteers are hired without any public job postings. Also, job postings can be found at the two wildlife rehabilitation programs professional organizations, the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.