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California Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Rehabilitation Program What is Wildlife Rehabilitation?

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what is wildlife rehabilitation
What is Wildlife Rehabilitation?
  • Wildlife rehabilitation means "any activity undertaken to restore to a condition of good health, for the purpose of release to the wild, animals occurring naturally and not normally domesticated in this State."
who can rehabilitate wildlife
Who can rehabilitate Wildlife?
  • Only state and federally permitted individuals or organizations.
what is the most important aspect of wildlife rehabilitation
What is the most important aspect of wildlife rehabilitation?


  • “First do no harm”- wildlife undergoing rehabilitation will be housed in a “hospital” situation and just like human hospitals bacteria and viruses can spread for patient to patient
  • Do not introduce a new disease into a healthy population of animals.
4 ways that disease spreads
4 ways that disease spreads
  • Inhalation
  • Ingestion
  • Contact
  • Vector by parasite

* The key factors for rehabilitators is disinfection, parasite control, cage spacing, knowledge of diseases and release.

common diseases in wildlife that wildlife rehabbers should be familiar with



Lyme Disease








Avian Botulism

Chronic Wasting Disease

Avian Pox



White Nose Syndrome


Common diseases in Wildlifethat wildlife rehabbers should be familiar with
one of the most important conditions for terrestrial species
One of the most important Conditions for terrestrial species
  • All mammals must be released within 3 miles of where the animal was found.
why 3 miles
Why 3 miles?
  • Animals have developed immunities to certain diseases present in their home range.
  • If an animal is carrying a disease with no clinical signs, a rehabber will prevent spreading the disease to a new area by biding by three mile condition.
  • Genetics- animals develop certain “anatomical features” to deal with different climates, habitats, and forage. Only natural movement by wildlife should effect genetics, not releases by rehabbers.
  • Carrying capacity- do not over capacitate a habitat with too many animals, especially the same species. You could affect the healthy wildlife residents.
carrying capacity
Carrying Capacity
  • The carrying capacity of a biological species in an environment is the population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment.
  • Orphaned rehabilitated wildlife have less of a chance for survival than juveniles raised by their wild mothers.
  • One of the most important behavior that a rehabilitator can teach wild orphan babies is to fear humans and domestic animals. Their life depends on it!
  • Many ophans found by the public may be what is called “natural selection orphans”. Wild mothers often abandoned their young if they cannot find enough forage or have the ability or experience to care for their young. These orphans are often what wild predators depend on for survival.
public education
Public Education
  • Believe or not , the most important aspect of wildlife rehabilitation is Public Education
  • Most members of the public do not know how to live with wildlife. Your guidance will lessen animal/ human conflict.
  • Most members of the public do not know about the importance of the ecosystem and the individual niche that native wildlife plays including orphaned, sick or injured wildlife.
best advice
Best Advice
  • The best advice any wildlife professional can give to the public about wildlife is to leave wildlife in the wild.
  • Many of times the mother is nearby
  • Many times by placing the animal back into a “make shift” nest or back under “cover” is the best thing a person can do for wildlife.
know the regulations regarding wildlife rehabilitation
Know the Regulations regarding wildlife rehabilitation
  • California Code of Regulations section 679 specifically deals with wildlife rehabilitation
  • Ever rehabber has additional conditions to abide by in their Memorandum of Understanding
  • The Minimum Standards for Wildlife Rehabilitation written by the IWRC/ NWRA are adopted into section 679

Standard wildlife rehabilitation permits do not allow for the possession of adult deer, bears, elk, big horn sheep, wild pigs, antelope or mountain lions.

Please do not possess these animals for safety purposes. Have the public call the Department .

  • The most successful rehabilitators are rehabilitators that understand disease, wildlife biology, the natural history of wildlife, and understands that survival in the wild is “survival of the fittest”
  • The most unsuccessful rehabbers are the ones that enter the field with the main goal to “play” with wildlife and think wildlife is cute and fun.
core concepts
Core Concepts
  • Wildlife rehabilitation involves a lot of traumatic injuries and death.
  • Wildlife rehabilitation is hard work both mentally and physically
  • Many times wildlife does not survive after rehabilitation and release.
  • Unless you are working with a endangered or threatened species wildlife rehabilitation has no overall effect on wildlife populations.
  • Remember* “First do no harm”
non natives
  • Two classifications
  • Resident non-natives and non-native invasive species
  • Examples of resident non-natives: pheasant, turkeys, Chuckar, collared doves
  • Examples of invasive species- Quagga mussels, opossums, starlings, red fox, mitten crabs
non native invasive species
Non-Native Invasive Species
  • Non-native invasive compete with native wildlife for food, habitat and shelter.
  • Non-native invasive species spread diseases to native wildlife
  • Non-native species affect carrying capacities
red fox
Red Fox
  • Red foxes where brought to California for fur farming.
  • The red fox population is a result of escaped or intentionally released captive red foxes from the fur farming industry.
  • Created problems for ground nesting shore birds in southern California
  • Can only be “placed” for education or humanely euthanized, cannot be released
virginia opossum
Virginia Opossum
  • Opossums were brought to California in the 1800’s for a food and pelt source.
  • Carry the protozoan, Sarcocysitis neurona, known to kill endangered sea otters. Opossums are the only known carriers.
  • Thrives in urban areas where they can feed on pet food, garbage, and ornamental fruit trees. Considered a pest by most people.
  • From Europe and Asia
  • Common in US
  • Compete with native birds for food and shelter
  • Have been known to lay eggs in other birds’ nest. Nestling out competes native nestlings
should we be rehabbing non natives
Should we be rehabbing Non-natives?
  • Some well respected, progressive organizations are not accepting and /or rehabilitating non-native invasive species. This is recommended by the Department.
  • As stated in another slide, wildlife rehabilitation has not proven to affect overall population sizes.
  • Important not to introduce these species into new areas during release.
  • Triage your patients and resources- do not spend excessive amounts of money and time to fix injuries, etc.
  • Wildlife rehabbers play a very important role in public education
  • Most regulations, standards, and conditions regarding wildlife rehabilitation are to prevent the spread of disease among wildlife.
  • Try to keep wild orphans in the wild and with their wild mothers. This is their best chance of survival.
  • Be familiar with wildlife diseases and ways they are spread.
end note
End Note

Wildlife rehabilitation is continually evolving and progressing. Successful wildlife rehabbers are the ones who are continually learning, networking with other wildlife rehabbers and abiding by the rules and regulations in place to protect wildlife.