Wildlife Rehabilitation in Florida

Why Rehabilitation?

Wildlife rehabilitation is more than just "taking care of wild critters." It includes but is not limited to examination, diagnosis, treatment, proper and nutritious diet, safe and supportive captive surroundings, physical therapy, and pre-release conditioning of injured, orphaned and diseased wildlife. Veterinary assistance is engaged whenever medical treatment is needed. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to return recovered individuals to their natural habitats to live out successful and productive wild lives.

Most of the animals received at rehabilitation centers are sick, injured or orphaned not because of natural causes, but because of accidental or intentional (and frequently preventable) mischance with humans and our manipulations of the natural environment. For the injured bird, mammal or reptile that finds its way to a rehabilitator, whether it receives a new chance at life or a rapid end to its suffering, the rehabber makes a huge difference.

The majority of the animals treated and released are of common, not endangered, species. In terms of population biology, rehabilitation work has limited significance. Skeptics may ask, "Why rehabilitate? Why not just let nature take its course?" The answer is that, while our efforts may have small importance to an entire population, for each individual animal our efforts are crucial.

The very existence of permitted, trained wildlife rehabilitators ensures that caring people throughout the community will find skilled and willing help for wild animals in distress that they may encounter in the course of their daily lives. Whether it is a warbler that flew into a window pane or opossum babies orphaned when their mother was struck by a vehicle, relief is available. Thus rehabilitators provide a valuable service to concerned individuals and local, state and national organizations desiring to return animals to the wild and to reduce negative human impacts on the environment.

Public education is becoming a larger and larger part of the role of wildlife rehabilitators. Providing factual natural history information and exposing children and adults to a responsible attitude toward all living things are fundamental in our ever more crowded world. In addition, some rehabilitators are involved with research, captive breeding programs, law writing, and habitat preservation for imperiled species.

FWRA is a growing network of wildlife rehabilitators and related professionals in the State of Florida with a mandate to share information and support for the betterment of rehab and the preservation of our natural heritage.

How to Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator in Florida

State and Federal permits are required before anyone can rehabilitate wildlife. A state permit is required for all wildlife rehabilitation; an additional federal permit is required to rehabilitate migratory (native) birds. These permits do not allow an individual or organization to maintain non-releasable wildlife; additional state and federal permits are mandatory for this. To read more about Some Wildlife Possession Requirements visit:


To acquire a wildlife rehabilitation permit in Florida, you must be 18 years of age or older and have at least one year of experience and 1,000 hours working/volunteering with a permitted rehabber in the care of sick, injured or orphaned native wildlife. If you are unable to document the necessary experience, you are required to take a wildlife rehabilitation test. To learn more about requirements in Florida, visit


and scroll down to 68A-9.006 Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit. For permit application and additional information, visit http://myfwc.com/license/captive-wildlife/#rehab

Additionally, if you choose to rehabilitate migratory birds, you will be required to have a migratory bird permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. For information visit http://www.fws.gov/forms/3-200-10b.pdf

Becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitator requires a tremendous amount of time, energy and funding. Volunteering with a Wildlife Rehabilitator in your area can help you get an idea of how much is involved. Finding a wildlife center or home-based rehabber in your area is a great way to gain knowledge and hours while providing much-needed help. Visit http://www.fwra.org/injuredwildlife.html or http://www.wildliferehabber.org for more information. You may just choose to volunteer rather get a permit.

There are numerous wildlife rehabilitation associations, both state and national organizations, dedicated to sharing information about our chosen profession. In Florida we have the FWRA www.fwra.org. Each year FWRA holds a 3 day symposium in September. This is an excellent opportunity for continued education on wildlife rehabilitation and environmental issues in Florida. FWRA members also chat on a Yahoo group year round. This is another great opportunity to learn, share and communicate with rehabbers and veterinarians throughout the state.

Other websites to visit to learn more about becoming a wildlife rehabilitator are http://wildliferehabinfo.org/index.htm, http://theiwrc.org, and http://www.nwrawildlife.org

Florida Wildlife Rehabilitators Association
P.O. Box 411087, Melbourne, FL 32941