What Is Wildlife Rehabilitation?
By Ame Vanorio © 2018
What is Wildlife Rehabilitation?
Wildlife rehabilitation is the rescue and care of injured and orphaned wildlife. Primarily this focuses on neonates and baby wildlife but may also include juveniles and adults. The goal of rehabilitation is to put the animal back into the wild when it is ready to live on its own.
In Kentucky we define as "Wildlife rehabilitation is the process of rescuing, raising, and arranging for veterinary medical care of orphaned, sick, displaced, or injured wildlife with the goal or releasing the wildlife back to its natural habitat" (Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2018)
Typically what happens is Joe Citizen finds an injured or presumed orphaned wild baby. They contact a Kentucky licensed wildlife rehabilitator who will ask them questions to find out if the baby does need intervention. A quick note here if you are Joe Citizen! These questions are very important. They let the rehabber understand the circumstances and make a professional decision. You may be asked to send a picture. You may be told to put the animal back. Please comply.
In Kentucky, licensed wildlife rehabilitators work in a variety of settings. Some may be working out of there homes or garages, some running smaller centers in outbuildings or barns and a few larger centers with multiple buildings. There is no right or wrong location.
Many Kentucky wildlife rehabilitation centers do fill up quickly in the spring. Rehabbers have to consider the space they have now and the space the animal will need as it grows. Many rehabbers use a step up system where as the animal grows and develops it moves to larger enclosures. Eventually they are living outside in a pre-release enclosure. In this space they are adjusting to the natural environment and learning skills that will help them survive in the wild.
Wildlife rehabbers are predominantly volunteers. The only compensation is from donations. Rehabbers often pay for expenses such as formula, veterinary care and medicines out of their own pockets. In addition they often pursue educational workshops and conferences to continue learning about animals.
Why Does Wildlife Need to be Rehabilitated?
Research shows that the majority of injured, ill and orphaned wild animals handled by rehabilitators are suffering not because of "natural" occurrences, but because of human intervention -- some accidental, some intentional, many preventable: autos, mowers, firearms, traps, kids throwing stones, poisons, oil spills, pets, etc. Rehabilitators treat injuries in these animals by either caring for them until they can be released or having them humanely euthanized.
Rehabbers seek to educate the public on how to prevent these problems. Many wildlife rehabilitators conduct education programs for the public.
Wildlife rehabilitation is not an attempt to turn wild animals into pets. Animals remain in captivity only until they are able to live independently in the wild and then they are released. Wild animals do not make good pets. In addition, it is against the law to possess a wild animal in the state of Kentucky without a permit.
Many wildlife rehabbers accept volunteers and/or mentor persons who wish to become rehabbers themselves. The next blog post will discuss how to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.