How can I get involved?
Few people are paid to do wildlife rehabilitation—it is primarily a labor of love. Many home-based rehabilitators have full or part-time jobs in addition to their rehabilitation duties. Even those who work in cooperation with wildlife centers tend to cover at least some of the associated costs out of their own pockets. Wildlife centers are nearly always nonprofit organizations, and while there may be a few paid staff members, volunteers and home-based rehabilitators perform much of the work.
Volunteering either at a center or with a home-based wildlife rehabilitator is a wonderful way to learn about the profession. Hands-on rehabilitation is not the only way you can help wildlife in need. There are many other jobs associated with running a center that are available to volunteers, including record keeping, fundraising, construction, and public education. Answering telephone calls from the public is another of the hundreds of tasks to be done.
Finally, one of the most important ways to support wildlife is by making a generous tax-deductible donation of money or supplies. Click here to read more about Supporting your Local Wildlife Rehabilitator or here for more information on how to donate directly to NWRA.
What is the difference between Center-based and Home-based Rehabilitators?
Some wildlife rehabilitators work out of their own homes, while others volunteer at nonprofit wildlife centers. Some home-based wildlife rehabilitators work with a center too. Establishing a rehabilitation center at home is simply not an option for many people. Local ordinances, leases, and other restrictions may prohibit this kind of activity. In some areas of the country, wildlife rehabilitators are so scarce that only one permitted rehabilitator may be found in a large area of a state.
The regulations and laws that govern wildlife rehabilitation can be very complex. These procedures vary from state to state and even within different regions of the same state. Some states issue permits to wildlife centers only, while in other states, permits are issued only to individuals and every person working at a center must have their own permit. Both centers and individuals can obtain permits in several states, and rehabilitators who care for birds must have a Federal permit, as well.
The quality of care should not depend on whether the rehabilitator is based in a center or in a home. When given a choice, most rescuers pick a rehabilitator by word-of-mouth recommendation or by proximity to their home or workplace. Ask questions if you have any concerns about the quality of care that will be provided to a wild animal. Most rehabilitators are very passionate about their work and are happy to discuss it with you.