Feeding Expenses For Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers

By Ame Vanorio © March 27, 2019

Wildlife rehabilitation is a costly endeavor. Many people do not realize that wildlife rehabilitation is a “volunteer entity”. Most monies to feed and house the baby wildlife that are rescued come from finders, donors and the pockets of the rehabbers themselves.

Whether you are a finder or a rehabilitator it is important to understand the costs of wildlife rehabilitation. For most people feeding and purchasing formula is the biggest expense. For others, it is veterinary care. Caging, housing and electric (heating) are all considerable. In addition, most rehabbers must pay permit fees and take education classes to get their license.

This article will focus on feeding costs as that is a foundational expense for any animal. Very little has been written about the actual cost breakdowns which I think hinders our progress as businesses.

Photo by Catherine Cox

Photo by Catherine Cox

Why Is It Important For Finders?

Finders are the critical first step in the wildlife rehabilitation process. In my experience, finders are kind and compassionate people who want to help animals. However, they often to do not understand the day to day demands of rehab or why they are asked to donate money for helping.

When a neonate baby come into a rehabilitation facility it is essentially helpless. The first thing it needs is a warm safe place. Fluids, formula and natural foods will help it grow. In addition, depending on the circumstances the baby may need medical intervention.

As a finder or other supportive person, please understand that there are many costs associated with rehabilitation. Your financial support is always greatly appreciated. This support may be in cash, time spent volunteering or making purchases from the centers wish list.

Why Is It Important For Rehabilitators?

Wildlife rehabilitators are devoted loving people. I know, this because I am one and I hang around with like-minded friends! That devotion sometimes leads us to make poor decisions. Do you know how to say “NO”? I'm working on that one too.

Rehabbers need to view themselves as a business. The business (your rehab center) must take in funds to support growing your product (your babies). If you take in product faster then you take in money your business will be in debt. Often this means personal debt.

This is a frequent problem. We have a hard time setting limits. However, when we do not set limits we often stress ourselves financially as well as emotionally.

I feel that this is the main reason people stop rehabbing. I monitor the Kentucky list every year and there is tremendous turnover. (Please leave a comment below on what you find most stressful about rehabbing).

Treating your center as a business is very important. This is where all that record keeping is essential. Keep track of how much you spend on formula, how much your babies eat and what foods you are buying at the store.

Cost of Raccoons and Wildlife Rehabilitation

Raccoons are among the most popular and the most expensive animals to rehabilitate. Raccoons are a long term investment for a rehabber.

Depending on their age of admittance, they often stay the allotted time (6 months in Kentucky). Raccoons need a lot of “training” as in the natural world their mother spends a great deal of time teaching them survival skills.

My estimate is that raccoons cost about $225 per kit to feed them to the release stage.

The Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley (WCSA) in California estimates that they spend $40 each week for twelve weeks for every raccoon they take in. So $480 per raccoon for formula and an omnivore transition diet.

We supplement our raccoons diet with venison supplied by local hunters in fall.

Photo by Ame Vanorio


Sure baby bunnies are tiny. But they still need regular meals and a high-quality diet.

Stephanie Carlson of St. Melangell’s Small Animal Sanctuary outside Cincinnati, Ohio states that her baby rabbits cost $120 in formula alone over 60-90 days.


For WCSV baby squirrels average $240.00 from neonate to release (about 12 weeks). This includes formula, rodent block and whole foods as the squirrel grows.

Stephanie Carlson says that a litter of four baby squirrels take approximately 120 days before they are ready for release. That is about $165 in formula and nuggets. Carlson uses Fox Valley formulas.

Birds of Prey

Birds of prey are voracious eaters. Not only that they need fresh (often living food) for a healthy diet and one that teaches them to hunt.

Mario Nickerson runs Nature's Edge Wildlife and Reptile Rescue in the Dallas, Texas area. Nickerson handles birds of prey at his center.

He told me (via Facebook) that he broke it down for a local rehabber this way:
Whole quail cost us $1.40 each
Mice vary between pinkie to adult $0.15 to $3
Rats vary between pinkie to adult $0.25 - $6 each
A 2-pound bag of frozen mixed veggies is $1.94 (typically one bag per day feeds 4-8 animals depending on species)

“I'm usually feeding more or less 10 adult raptors, from Kestrels to Redtail Hawk size. Costs me $500 to $600 a month, just maintenance diet”.

The WCSA website states that predatory Birds (Raptors) cost about $50/week per fledgling.

“Cost of caring for an injured adult bird of prey can be quite expensive – from $250 to upwards of $2,000 or more dependent upon length of stay. Rehabilitation can last 4-6 weeks, though some birds can stay as long as one year (such as in electrocution cases). Raptors eat a carnivorous diet – a barn owl can consume up to 10 mice per day!” (WCSA, 2017)

Photo by Tyler Rutherford

Photo by Tyler Rutherford

This article leads into many other topics – running a business, finding donors, writing grants and fundraising. All important topics. There is very little quality information geared towards rehabbers on these topics.

Other financial topics such as veterinary costs and building habitats are also important. Comment below if you would like to add to the discussion and I will add your information. .

Share you knowledge. Want to write a guest blog? You can get more information here.

Author, Ame Vanorio is the director of Fox Run Environmental Education Center. In addition she works as a freelance writer to help support her animal addictions.