By Kim Stroud
There is a lot involved in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator, but the first and most important thing is your interest. Most rehabilitators begin their careers with a passion for wildlife and the realization that the best thing for wildlife is for them to remain wild. If you wish to become a wildlife rehabilitator so you can cuddle wild animals, wildlife rehabilitation is not for you. It is critical to be able to put the animal’s social needs ahead of your own.
The first step in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator is to get involved with a licensed facility in your area. It is important to talk to many people about the species in which you want to specialize. Check the CCWR website for California licensed facilities listed by location. You must have a minimum of two years experience working with a wildlife facility before you can apply for an individual permit. Make sure that your volunteer work is being documented by the facility you work at and be sure to keep your own records.
To get a license, you will need letters of recommendation from outlying facilities in your area that state there is a need for another facility, as well as a veterinarian letter of intent to work with you. You must obtain applications from the California Department of Fish and Wieldlife, Federal Fish and Wildlife and possibly the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) depending on what you are going to rehabilitate.
You may consider becoming a registered California non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization so that you may accept tax-deductible donations. There are different categories of non-profit status and I suggest you check out the Nolo Press Publication “How to become a Non-Profit Corporation in California” available in bookstores or online. Also make use of various seminars and instruction available to the wildlife rehabilitators wishing to incorporate to decide which application process best suits your needs. Typically, it takes a lot of time and donations to build up your own wildlife rehabilitation center. Soon after incorporating, you should look into grant writing courses to tap into corporation donations.
A great way to learn about wildlife rehabilitation is to join CCWR and attend our annual symposiums. At the symposium, you will meet many people in the field of rehabilitation; some are considering becoming permitted, most are already permitted CCWR is a great resource and network of people working towards the same goal; rehabilitation and release of native wildlife. The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) also has an excellent yearly conference.
You may also want to read the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit Application Process.