Wildlife Rehabilitator

Do you love wild animals? Does the idea of seeing an animal suffer uneedlessly make you sick to your stomach? Would you be willing to get up in the middle of the night to bottle feed a baby bird or raccoon?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then you might want to consider becoming a professional or volunteer animal rehabilitator.

The recent oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has highlighted the need for animal rehabilitators to help rescue animals caught in oil slicks and other man-made or natural disasters.

No matter if you prefer being around small or large animals, working as a wildlife rehabilitator can be a very challenging and rewarding experience. While you can usually volunteer to help rehabilitate wild animals, if you want to do it professionally, you'll usually need a degree in biology, veterinary medicine, or some other animal-related discipline.

Because wildlife rehabilitators strive to save wild animals and restore them back to their native habitat as quickly as possible, they typically need to have a good understanding of the species in their care: how it behaves, how it reacts in various situations, and what it does in the wild in order to survive.

While the majority of wildlife rehabilitators aren't trained veterinarians, they do work closely with vets. For example, if an animal in their care needs some type of surgery, usually the vet will come in and perform that surgery, and then the animal will receive post-op care fro a wildlife rehabilitator as it recovers in a wildlife center.

Keep in mind that the goal in this field is not to tame or befriend the animils, it's to get them healthy and able to survive and fend for themselves back in the wild. This is hard for some people as there's a natural tendency to want to bond with the animals they've rescued. But this would actually do the animal a disservice, because losing its natural fear of humans could leave it prey to hunters, or cause it to seek out populated areas instead of its natural wild habitat.

In the United States, wildlife rehabilitators are required to be licensed in the state in which they live and work. They can only care for animals in that same state. There are two associations for animal rehabbers: the International Wildlife Rehabilitation council, and the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.

Think of wildlife rehabilitators as sort of the paramedics of the animal kingdom. They serve as emergency medical and support technicians, capture and transport injured wildlife, they care and feed those animals, they create natural environments in which the animals can recover, and they help to educate the public about wildlife and how to be respectful of nature and animals in the wild.

While this job can be very rewarding, there are some things to keep in mind. If the thought of feeding a recovering animal other living creatures makes you squeamish, you might want to reconsider this as a career choice. And if you can't let go of an animal after nurturing it back to health, then this might simply be too painful emotionally on a daily basis.

Another consideration is the pay as a wildlife rehabilitator. Most people don't do this for the money, as the pay can be minimum wage or less. In fact most people volunteer out of a love for animals, and the desire to see them living free and healthy in the wild.



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