Wildlife Rehabilitation: An Introduction


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  • 12
    Lessons
  • 26
    Exams &
    Assignments
  • 7
    Hours
    average time
  • 0.7
    CEUs
  • 426
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Course Description

People who love animals hate to see them suffering. Whether it be their family pet or a wild creature, they want to see them thrive and live a happy life. Wildlife rehabilitators work to raise and rehabilitate wild animals so they can return to their natural homes. This can be a rewarding way to give back to the creatures we share the planet with.

In this course, you will learn all about Wildlife Rehabilitation. The course will teach you what to consider before taking on this daunting and fulfilling challenge. You will learn how to safely rescue an injured or orphaned wild animal. Also how to provide first-aid and medical treatment to animals in your care, and how to work with a veterinarian. This course covers a wide variety of animal terminology commonly used by wildlife and zoology professionals, and the standard established for Wildlife Rehabilitation for Intake, Daily Care, and Release.

Next the course explores some of the most common animals seen in a rehabilitation setting. It discusses the anatomy, wild habits, feeding requirements and housing requirements of some of the animal families you will likely encounter including:

  • Songbirds and Aquatic Birds
  • Raptors and Bats
  • Rodents and Rabbits
  • Carnivores
  • Ungulates
  • Marsupials
  • Reptiles
Finally, the course covers some of the most challenging aspects of wildlife rehabilitation. You will learn how to assist people in dealing with nuisance wildlife in a humane manner. Providing the gift of euthanasia is one of the most difficult but necessary parts of being a Wildlife Rehabilitator. Also the disposal of bodies in a respectful and appropriate manner also must be considered and planned for. Once you have completed this course, you will have taken the first step in fulfilling your dream of becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitator.
What is wildlife rehabilitation?

Wildlife rehabilitation is providing professional care for sick, injured, or orphaned animals until they can be returned to the wild. In most cases, animals that cannot be returned to the wild must be humanely euthanized. In some special circumstances, animals can be maintained in a captive environment and used for educational purposes.

Rescue vs. Rehabilitation

Often a person's first introduction to wildlife rehabilitation starts with finding a sick, injured, or abandoned wild animal. Their compassion and curiosity lead them to want to care for the animal. However, animal rehabilitation requires special skills and knowledge that go beyond rescuing the animal and removing it from harm.

When you find a sick, injured, or abandoned animal that you believe is in need of rescue, you should contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice and assistance. The best way to find a wildlife rehabilitator is to call:

  • Your local vet

  • Your local humane society

  • Or search the Internet for links rehab and rescue organizations

Goals of Rehabilitation

The main goal of rehabilitation is to get sick, injured, or orphaned wild animals back to their natural environment, so they can return to a normal wild life and continue to contribute to the diversity of their species.

Many factors go into attaining this goal:

Working with a veterinarian to provide proper medical care

  • Wound care

  • Bone repair

  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation

  • Burn management

  • Oil removal

  • Providing adequate nutrition -- understanding the specific nutritional requirement of each species under the rehabilitator's care, by working with a veterinarian

  • Keeping the animal wild. One of the key success factors permitting a wild animal to return to the wild is to reinforce their fear of humans. Animals who see humans as a source of food, comfort, or assistance, will not be able to successfully return to the wild and, therefore, may have to be euthanized.

Domestic, Wild, Feral

Domestic animals are those whose DNA structure has been fundamentally altered by generations of selective breeding to create an animal that is more compatible with the needs of humans for food, shelter, transportation, or companionship. The earliest known example of animal domestication was when man transformed wolves into dogs. It is believed that dogs were the first animal to be domesticated by humans over 15,000 years ago. Less aggressive wolves sought out the company of humans, who bred them with other less aggressive wolves. Over many generations, the result was the ancestor of today's dog. Not only was their nature altered, but their physiology was also changed. as well. Contrary to what Darwin speculated, all domestic dog breeds are descended from wolves. While there are a few dog breeds that still resemble their wolf ancestors, they all have significant changes. 

Because canine DNA is so malleable, humans were able to go on to further selectively breed for certain characteristics. Now dogs come in all shapes and sizes, with even more being developed as the human need evolves. Once humans discovered they could selectively breed wolves to produce a desired companion, they began domesticating many things -- including other animals, and plants. Although it's possible to domesticate wild animals, such as foxes, (Ratliff, 2011) it takes many generations to successfully alter their DNA. A person may be able to tame a wild animal through hand rearing and a reward/punishment system, but the animal will still remain wild.

Wild animals fear and mistrust humans, by nature. This fear is reinforced by their mothers. This is a critical part of their survival and must be maintained at all costs. Wild animals spurn human contact and may behave aggressively toward humans if left with no choice. Usually, they will tend to evade people by hiding or fleeing.

A wild animal who has been forced to endure human companionship will still retain its wild nature. Even hand-raised animals can resort to wild behavior without notice. Although some behaviors can be modified, wild animals are unpredictable by nature. Some have senses of smell, hearing, or sight that humans can't even imagine. They may react negatively to a smell, sound, or sight of something that we don't even know is there. Therefore, it is impossible to completely control their behavior and remain entirely safe, unless rigid precautions are taken. Zoos and other institutions trained to deal with wild animals are the only places where wild animals should be housed for long periods of time, and then, only to promote education and conservation of their wild brothers.

Feral animals are those creatures that were once domesticated, but have returned to a wild state through human neglect. Their offspring will still be domestic, and they can be re-tamed with proper handling. There are millions of feral cats and dogs around the world. They can pose a significant threat to native wildlife, and suffer from neglect themselves.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Requirements:

  • Licensing

It is illegal to keep captive wildlife in your home or on your property without the correct permits. Wildlife rehabilitators in every country in the world have to be licensed and bear the cost of obtaining the license and maintaining the education required to keep it updated. Check with your local government for information on how to get a license. If you're not sure where to start, your veterinarian, local zoo, or parks department may be able to help. You can also contact The International Wildlife Council for information about how to reach the proper authorities. You will need to work closely with your local wildlife, fisheries, or conservation department to maintain the correct permits and update them on the wildlife in your care.

  • Financial

There are very few paid jobs in the wildlife rehabilitation field. Most people do this on a voluntary basis, and many absorb all of the costs of maintaining an adequate rehabilitation facility at their home. These costs can be extreme. 

Veterinary care - The reason animals need to be rehabilitated in the first place is because they are sick, injured, or orphaned. In all cases, they will require the care of a veterinarian. Finding a veterinarian that can treat exotic wildlife can be very difficult and expensive. Before you decide to become a wildlife rehabilitator, make sure there is a veterinarian willing to partner with you, and understand that you will almost certainly bear the financial burden.

Medication and First Aid Supplies - Sick and injured animals will usually need some type of medication or first-aid before returning to the wild; the cost associated generally falls to the rehabilitator.

Nutrition - The wildlife in your care will require specialized nutrition. They may also need supplies, such as bottles and tubes or IVs to feed them.

Habitat - Some animals require a large amount of space in which to learn to live in the wild. If you don't have adequate space to house them while they are ill, and also to allow them the freedom to re-acclimate to their wild environment, then you should consider volunteering at a facility instead of attempting to do in-home wildlife rehabilitation.

Continuing Education - To maintain your license and certifications, you may need to submit proof that you have taken ongoing classes to continue your education, and familiarize yourself with the latest information in the rehabilitation field. Many states/countries require that you update your license every year or two. The costs associated with continuing education fall to the rehabilitator.

Transportation- In some cases, it may be necessary to travel long distances to find a suitable release site. These should always be coordinated with your local wildlife, fisheries, and conservation department. In most cases, the cost of the associated travel is borne by the rehabilitator.

  • Emotional

Caring for a wild animal and then releasing it back to the wild can be a very emotional experience, both positive and negative. At best, the animal will return to the wild and you will never know what happened to it; at worst, the animal will return to the wild and fail to thrive in the wild, despite your care. People who have difficulty separating or letting go of things are not good candidates for this type of work.

You might also have to face the devastating consequences that come when an animal can't be returned to the wild and has to be euthanized.Even though some animals may be able to remain in captivity and become ambassadors for education and conservation, this is not always an appropriate solution.

  • Legal

Many wild animals are protected by state, local, or even international treaties. CITES the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is an international organization that aims to protect endangered species by regulating their sale and trade. 

There are over 16,000 species threatened with extinction worldwide. Local and international laws attempt to keep them safe. As a wildlife rehabilitator, you can contribute an invaluable resource to these efforts. However, it takes training and dedication to ensure that you are a help, and not a hindrance. Organizations like Endangered Species International keep information about animals at risk worldwide, and the international efforts to prevent their extinction.

  • Environmental

Rehabilitating wildlife, in most cases, requires a good amount of space. The rehabilitator needs to provide a safe environment for the animal to recuperate or develop, which is free from noise and chaos, and can be temperature controlled.

After the animal is healthy, they may need to learn essential survival skills. This might require a very large enclosure, depending on the type of animal.

Some animals, like snakes and amphibians, cannot control their own body temperature and need to be provided for. Make sure your property or facility meets all requirements by checking with your local officials for an inspection.

If you do not own the facility, make sure your landlord is in agreement with your plans to rehabilitate animals.

  • Human Health Concerns

Zoonotic diseases are transferred from animals to humans and can be very nasty. Some zoonotic diseases take the form of parasites transferred to humans from animals. In other cases, the animal carries a parasite that subsequently bites a human and infects them -- such as a raccoon that has ticks that carry Lyme disease, which is passed on to the rehabilitator. There is also a risk of an animal passing a disease, like rabies, directly to a human.

You should be aware of the potential zoonotic diseases associated with the type of animals you intend to care for, and the ways you can protect yourself from infection.

How to Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

  • After carefully considering the financial, emotional, and health-related concerns, you have decided to go ahead with your goal of becoming a wildlife rehabilitator. You have the financial resources and the space necessary to take on such a challenge for the long haul. You will no doubt make a wonderful addition to the wildlife rehabilitation network.

  • The first thing you should do is visit at least one established wildlife rehabilitation facility and spend as much time there as you can. Ideally, you would start your road to responsible rehabilitation by volunteering at a nearby facility for at least six months. First, look for a facility that specializes in the type of animals you want to work with. If that is not possible, try to find a general facility. Even if you can only find an organization that specializes in a different class of animal, you can still learn valuable lessons about rehab by volunteering there. If there are no facilities within driving distance, think about asking if you can use your vacation time to spend a week volunteering at a facility that is accredited to do what you want to do. Spending time at a competent facility will give you a chance to see what works, and what does not, so you can set yourself up for success from the start. 

  • Next, study the wildlife in your area. Make sure you can identify the different species that you might encounter as a rehabilitator. You should consider all classes of animals, even if you only plan to specialize in one type of rehabilitation. You may be called upon to consult on other cases once you are a known resource in your area. Accurately identifying an animal is the first step in providing it the best possible care.

  • Set up a financial plan. Are you hoping to operate as an NPO (non-profit organization) or NGO (non-government organization)? Find out what legal requirement you have to meet to be able to accept donations to help support your organization. If you choose to self-fund, make sure you have a sound financial plan in place. Animal rehabilitation can be a long-term prospect and requires long-range planning.

  • Set up your facility and obtain the necessary licenses and certifications. Meet with your local veterinarian(s) to establish their areas of expertise and the assistance they will be able to provide.

  • Join any reputable societies available in your country, state, or region -- and get to know as many other animal rehabilitation, and animal experts as you can. You never know when their help may become invaluable.

Other Ways to Help

Donate

  • Monetary resources are vital to wildlife rehabilitation organizations. No one pays them for rescuing and rehabilitating animals, and the costs associated with the care and treatment of injured, sick and orphaned wildlife are very high.

  • If you really want to get involved, but don't have the time or resources necessary to become a rehabilitator, make a financial contribution. Do your research and make sure the operation is legitimate, but when you find one that you feel is doing a good job, please consider making a donation.

  • If a donation is not an option, consider volunteering at a rehab facility. The more volunteers they have, the more animals they are able to help. Any funds that have to be diverted to paying the staff are taken away from the animals that need help.

  • If you don't have the money to donate and don't have the time to volunteer, or a facility is too far away, consider fundraising on behalf of an organization. For instance, let's say you want to help wild black rhinos, but you live in the U.S., where there are obviously no wild black rhinos -- that doesn't mean you can't help. The American Association of Zoo Keepers sponsors an event called Bowling for Rhinos. You can get a bowling team together and raise money for rhino conservation and rehabilitating orphaned baby black rhinos. 

  • Consider creating a nature-friendly habitat in your backyard. There are many ways you can make your backyard a safe and nature-friendly place for wild creatures to enjoy with you. Contact conservation organizations in your area about ways to create a backyard wildlife sanctuary.

  • Keep domestic pets under control. Domestic cats are especially harmful to native wildlife. Especially in a place like the United States and Australia, where they are considered an invasive species. Domestic cats are not indigenous to the Americas or Australia, yet they kill billions of small native animals every year. So if you have a pet cat, keep it indoors or create an enclosed "catio." Make sure to spay and neuter all of your animals.

Imagine that you're standing in your backyard one morning when you come upon a sad sight... There's a dead opossum. As you work to dispose of the remains, you discover quite a surprise--inside the mother's pouch are several tiny pink baby opossums.
 
If you found yourself in this situation, would you really know what to do?
 
The simple truth is that very few people would truly know what to do. Though armed with the best intentions, things rarely work out so well in this situation and many other similar scenarios. And, sadly enough, it can be absolutely devastating to try to save a wild bird or animal only to find that, in the end, you’ve only made things worse.
 
Armed with the correct wildlife rehabilitation knowledge you’ll gain in this course, you'll be able to avoid the common mistakes and mishaps.
 
Whether you're considering a career in wildlife rehabilitation, have found yourself facing a wild animal intervention, or you just love animals and want your backyard to be a haven for wildlife big and small, this course will provide you with everything you need.
 
If you’ve got at least a high school reading level and a desire to learn, you’re ready to enroll! All necessary materials are provided upon enrollment and registration is always open, 24/7. Register today to equip yourself with the wildlife wisdom your outdoors lifestyle demands.
Is your backyard decorated with bird houses, squirrel feeders, bird baths, and other highlights of a wildlife-welcoming environment?
Do you get excited when opportunities to glimpse foxes, deer, raccoons and other local fauna in their natural habitats arise?
 
If you have a passion for the world beyond your backyard and want to nurture the knowledge without having to become a wildlife "expert", then this class is exactly what you've been looking for!
 
In a nutshell, this course aims to do two very important things: it both explains and demonstrates what you can do to help, nurture and protect the wild animals and birds you'll encounter. Although the primary focus of the class work will be on what you can do from your very own backyard, it will additionally provide those of you who are interested with solid, practical information on pursing a career in wildlife rehabilitation.
 
There are a total of 12 lessons contained in the course:

Lesson 1:
Introduction to Wildlife Rehabilitation

Lesson 2: How You Can Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

Lesson 3: When & If to Rescue

Lesson 4: Helping Animals with Wildlife Rehabilitation

Lesson 5: How to Catch a Wild Animal for Rehabilitation

Lesson 6: Transporting Wild Animals to a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Lesson 7: Human Health Concerns in Wildlife Rehabilitation

Lesson 8: How Else Can You Help Wildlife?

Lesson 9: Wild Animals as Pets? NEVER!

Lesson 10: How to Safely and Humanely Deal with Nuisance Wildlife

Lesson 11: Sadness and Grief

Lesson 12: Questions, Answers and Interesting Information
 
And, along the way, you'll meet the class's six underlying main objectives:
  • To show what you can do to take part in wildlife rehab
  • To provide information on what you need to do to become a professional wildlife rehabilitator
  • To explain the most common causes for animal injuries, signs and symptoms of injury and what you should (and shouldn’t) do from there
  • To increase awareness of the human health risks and what you can do to prevent them
  • To educate you on the essentials of dealing with pesky, problematic wildlife
  • And, perhaps most importantly, real life tips, training and methods that you can use to benefit all of the creatures that visit your own backyard
While the class is constructed to be self-paced and work around your personal and professional schedule, lessons MUST be completed sequentially. You must first complete all quizzes and components for Lesson 1 before moving to Lesson 2 and so on. Each lesson includes a written assignment and/or a brief quiz. Either way, you'll be called upon to directly apply the information you’ve just learned. In order to successfully "pass" this class, you’ll need to earn an overall score of 70% or better.
 
Best of all, there's no excuse to procrastinate! Since class enrollment is always open (yep, 24/7) head on over today to sign up and start taking an active role in wildlife rehabilitation...
  • Completely Online
  • Self-Paced
  • Printable Lessons
  • Full HD Video
  • 6 Months to Complete
  • 24/7 Availability
  • Start Anytime
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  • Android & iOS Friendly
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Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider
 
 
 
 

Course Lessons

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Lesson 1: Fundamentals of Wildlife Rehabilitation

Wildlife rehabilitation is providing professional care for sick, injured, or orphaned animals until they can be returned to the wild. 12 Total Points
  • Lesson 1 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association; Education and Resources for Wildlife Conservation Worldwide
  • Complete Assignment: An Introduction
  • Complete: Exam 1

Lesson 2: When and If to Rescue and Rehabilitate

Make sure you know what you're doing before you ever attempt to rescue a wild animal. If you're not sure if an animal requires relief, consult with an expert. 17 Total Points
  • Lesson 2 Video
  • Review 3 Articles: When NOT to "Rescue" a Wild Animal; Wildlife Emergencies; Rescue Stories
  • Complete: Lesson 2 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 2

Lesson 3: Providing Medical Care in Wildlife Rehabilitation

If you use common sense and a good foundation of knowledge, you might be able to rescue some animals in distress. 22 Total Points
  • Lesson 3 Video
  • Review 3 Articles: Pet Poison Helpline; Emergency Care; Capture and Emergency Care for Wildlife
  • Complete: Lesson 3 Assignment
  • Complete: Lesson 3 Assignment B
  • Complete: Exam 3

Lesson 4: Wildlife Rehabilitation Standards

Although each species has its own individual needs, which will be discussed in future lessons, they also have standards of care. 17 Total Points
  • Lesson 4 Video
  • Review Article: WDFW WILDLIFE REHABILITATION CARE STANDARDS
  • Complete Assignment: Lesson 4 Assessment
  • Complete: Exam 4

Lesson 5: Avian Rehabilitation: Songbirds and Aquatic Birds

Within different classes and families of animals, there are specific requirements related to their particular needs. Understanding their individual needs will help you provide the highest level of care. 14 Total Points
  • Lesson 5 Video
  • Review 4 Articles: International Bird Rescue; Center for Avian Rehabilitation and Education, Inc.; Wild Bird Rehabilitation; Aquatic Bird Rehabilitation
  • Complete: Lesson 5 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 5

Lesson 6: Wildlife Rehabilitation: Carnivores

Carnivores are some of the most dangerous animals rehabilitators will face. 14 Total Points
  • Lesson 6 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: The Wild Animal Sanctuary; Wildlife Rescue Centers in India
  • Complete: Lesson 6 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 6

Lesson 7: Wildlife Rehabilitation: Rodentia and Lagomorphs

Since humans should always be considered predators by wild animals, they may be extremely fearful and stress very quickly. They should be handled as little as possible to help them stay calm, and to prevent them from associating humans with care. 14 Total Points
  • Lesson 7 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Squirrel Rescue; Saving Wild Baby Rabbits
  • Review Video: Raccoon group overwintering at the Rainbow Wildlife Rescue
  • Complete: Lesson 7 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 7

Lesson 8: Wildlife Rehabilitation, Other Winged Animals: Raptors and Bats

Within different classes and families of animals, there are specific requirements related to their particular needs. Understanding their individual needs will help you provide the highest level of care. 14 Total Points
  • Lesson 8 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitation; Bat World Sanctuary
  • Complete: Lesson 8 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 8

Lesson 9: Wildlife Rehabilitation: Deer, Antelope, Other Mammals

Most facilities that rehabilitate primates, or any other specialized mammals, have highly trained staff with specific protocols. 13 Total Points
  • Lesson 9 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Deer Fawns and What to Do If You Find One; The Wildlife Rehabilitation Information Directory
  • Complete: Lesson 9 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 9

Lesson 10: Wildlife Rehabilitation: Marsupials

Opossums are members of the family Didelphidae and are the only marsupial mammals in the Americas. 20 Total Points
  • Lesson 10 Video
  • Review 3 Articles: National Opossum Society; Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation of Opossum; Orphaned or Injured Opossum
  • Complete: Lesson 10 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 10

Lesson 11: Wildlife Rehabilitation: Reptiles

The best, and the only, way to properly rehabilitate reptiles is to understand the possible species that are indigenous to your area, and learn their specific properties. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 11 Video
  • Review Article: CCSB REPTILE RESCUE and REHAB CENTER
  • Complete: Exam 11

Lesson 12: Wildlife Rehabilitation: Final Considerations

The idea of euthanizing any animal is one that any wildlife lover dreads. However, if you plan to take on the challenge of wildlife rehabilitation, you must prepare yourself to deal with this eventuality. 86 Total Points
  • Lesson 12 Video
  • Take Poll: Final Course Poll - Your Opinion
  • Complete: Lesson 12 Assignment A
  • Complete: Lesson 12 Assignment B
  • Complete: Exam 12
  • Complete: The Final Exam
253
Total Course Points
 

Additional Course Information

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Course Title: Wildlife Rehabilitation: An Introduction
Course Number: 8900357
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Category:
Course Type: Support/Advice (Self-Paced, Online Class)
CEU Value: 0.7 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Instructor: Cathleen Chouinard
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Duration: Continuous: Enroll anytime!
Course Fee: $50.00 (no CEU Certification) || with Online CEU Certification: $75.00

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Student Testimonials

  • "The course was really helpful and the instructor was very nice. I'll have to take another class here some day." -- Joseph S.
  • "It broadened my view and knowledge on the topic, which is the reason I signed up for it." -- Terri N.
  • "Very useful course - I learned a LOT!" -- Carol W.
  • "It was pretty easy to navigate throughout the course." -- Rebekah C.
  • "What was most helpful were the clear and concise directions on how to help an animal while injured or sick." -- Cortney S.
  • "My Instructor is wonderful! She was extremely available throughout the course and super fast to respond to any questions and comments!" -- Stephanie P.
  • "I enjoyed it very much. It was very helpful to me and added reinforcement to my volunteer service at our local Rehab Center. Thanks again." -- Judi R.
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