Wildlife rehabilitation is not a regular 9 to 5 job, it is a way of life for a wildlife enthusiast. While this career does have a below average pay scale, the growth rate for this job is expected to increase more than average. One thing is certain though, this career is a rewarding choice for all those who love animals and wildlife. Continue reading this CareerStint article for more details.
Earlier pursued by individuals as a part of their hobby, or due to their love for wildlife and wild animals, wildlife rehabilitation has recently turned into a full-fledged profession. Wildlife conservation has gained importance in recent years, with massive deforestation and loss of species across the globe. Many countries facing extinction of native flora and fauna, have started conservation programs that call for volunteers and individuals, who are willing to devote their time and energies to provide care, and nurture local wildlife, and rehabilitate them. The rehab may be limited to one particular species or animal, or may focus on tackling a recent natural disaster, a forest fire, or an oil spill, that might have affected the local wildlife. However, as the wheels of time have turned, with various non-governmental organizations and environmental enthusiasts encouraging participation from people, this career is taking new shapes and dimensions.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for employees in non-farm animal care is $22,970 p.a.
- Also, the mean hourly wages are around $10.
- States with the best mean salaries in this sector are Hawaii ($30,060), California ($26,260), and Oregon ($27,050).
- States with highest concentration of jobs in this sector (per thousand) are California (1.13), Texas (1.11), Florida (1.24), Illinois (1.38), and New York (1.18).
- Growth in this sector is likely to be in the 20-25% range for the period between 2010-2020.
- Although the mean salary is in the lower range, some wildlife directors get paid as much as $90,000 per annum.
Salary is paid to those working full-time, however, if one is part of a wildlife conservation project funded by the government, even part-timers may be paid a stipend. Following are some of the tasks a wildlife rehabilitator must undertake:
- Feeding and bathing baby birds and animals is one of the most important tasks assigned to a rehabilitator. One must consult the latest books and literature for diet information and feeding habits of various animal and birds.
- Veterinary technicians and doctors require support in administering critical care to injured animals, and a rehabilitator is often required to pitch in.
- Injured animals require first-aid and supportive therapy, and a rehabilitator has to administer first-aid. He/she takes care of animals hurt as a result of abuse or accidents.
- Supervising, guiding, and instructing paid or voluntary workers.
- Maintaining a regular database, about the health, food, and other factors that help in tracking the growth of the animals.
- Moving rehabilitated animals to secure locations also comes under the purview of a rehabilitator. He/she must work with wildlife biologists, vets, and logistics handlers, to provide a safe transfer of animals.
- Spreading awareness about endangered animals in areas where they are hunted or poached. Working actively with authorities to watch for illegal activities concerning such animals.
One must have a drive for selfless service towards animals to enjoy working in this field. Many states have made rehabilitation licensing a must, whether the work done is paid or voluntary.
- The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), offers licensing for Wildlife Rehabilitators. Candidates must pass the exam with a score of 80% or higher, produce two letters of recommendation, and appear for an interview with their regional wildlife office.
- The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) conducts the Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator (CWE) exam, which enables candidates to practice rehabilitation with a certain degree of professionalism and enhances their credentials when dealing with Federal and State officials.
- In the US, it is mandatory for bird rehabilitators to gain a permit from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service at both, the state and Federal level before beginning any rehabilitation work.
- It is advisable that people entering this profession acquire the requisite licenses, as this enables them to work with full authority. Though no degree or qualification is essential for becoming a wildlife rehabilitator, yet every profession demands skill and knowledge, some NGO’s and firms prefer people with a degree in animal anatomy, zoology, biology, and other life sciences. The idea is that the worker must have basic knowledge of animals and their habitats.
Challenges of being a Wildlife Rehabilitator
There are certain aspects one needs to be aware of before taking up this profession.
- The job requires handling animals and birds who may be in distress, and may attack the handler in self-defense. One must be careful at all times when taking care of aggressive animals.
- Keeping personal insurance up-to-date is another priority for people working with animals. Make sure you and your family are adequately insured before starting to work as a rehabilitator.
- The job of a rehabilitator can be demanding in terms of financial and physical resources. Birds and animals require cages, alarm systems, feeding mechanisms, and special diets, which the rehabilitator may have to pay for in the beginning. Later on, with proper experience, he can set up a non-profit organization to accept donations and carry on the good work, but this too needs extensive paperwork and legal compliance.
- Finally, a wildlife rehabilitator must be ready to spend time away from his family, often in the woods and in difficult circumstances. His family too must be supportive and understanding of the demands of his profession.
Becoming a successful wildlife rehabilitator may be a challenge, but with focus, dedication, and a genuine love for animals in need, one can excel in this career.