Wildlife Rehabilitation is the treatment and care of an injured, diseased or orphaned animal back to health and then its release back into the wild. (Source) It is not cuddling with wild animals and keeping them as pets! In fact, a key component is to have as little contact as possible with the animal so that it stays wary of humans. Wildlife Rehabilitation also involves hard work, dedication and emotional commitment. Many animals taken into care do not survive or need to be euthanized if they are beyond help. Also, while successful rehabilitations are the goal, sometimes treated animals are unable to fend for themselves in the wild will be placed in educational facilities.
There are basically two groups of people who take care of distressed wildlife — rehabilitation centers (most often non-profits) or home-based rehabilitators. Neither group receives funding for their efforts so they must fundraise or provide the funding themselves.
You should know: This cause isn’t limited to small backyard critters — you can also find centers working to save animals like seals, birds of prey, bobcats and more.
Not so fun fact: Research shows that over 75% of the animals cared for are affected in some manner by human activities like nest tree destruction, car or window collisions, run-ins with pets, poisonings, non-target trapping/shooting and more. (Source)
Important: It is illegal to take in wildlife so don’t try this at home! Even touching certain animals while trying to help them can result in automatic euthanasia of the animal. Rehabilitators go through training, medical preparation and obtain permits when necessary, so call them first.
2 MINUTE ACTION PLAN TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE:
Research Your Local Rehabilitator. Running into wildlife in distress can happen at any time so it’s best to be prepared. Do some quick research online — look up local wildlife rehabilitators and save their contact info into your cell phone for quick access on the go. Sometimes these are going to be rehabilitation centers, which only have certain hours, or private home-based rehabilitators who don’t have a set schedule, so it’s best to gather contact info for more than one person.
Bonus: You can also prepare by putting thick gloves, towels and a container into your car for any emergencies you come across on the road. To clarify, call your local wildlife rehabilitator and ask them what to do first, but the Scouts have it right when they say always be prepared.