Many wildlife rehabilitators choose to complete certification exams, training courses, and internships to enhance their practical skills and knowledge of the field. While certification or professional training is not required, it is mandatory that rehabilitators comply with all permit and licensing requirements in the jurisdictions where they intend to use their skills.
Individuals and organizations must have all necessary permits and licenses as required in their specific state or locality to be allowed to conduct wildlife rehabilitation activities. Federal permits also may be necessary, especially if rehabilitators intend to work with birds. All wildlife rehabilitators should be careful to determine what permits and licenses will be needed to operate their facilities legally.
The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) offers the most well-known wildlife rehabilitation certification program. The Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator (CWR) designation is achieved through the passage of a comprehensive written exam.
The exam is open-book and consists of 50 questions drawn from a 12,000-question test bank. The format of the exam includes true/false, multiple-choice, and matching questions. The questions test the individual’s knowledge of 12 key areas: natural history and behavior, handling and restraint, basic physiology, intake and triage, euthanasia, hydration and fluid therapy, thermoregulation, wound management, medications, nutrition, captive housing, and release criteria. Both web-based and classroom-based testing options are available.
The exam is timed and must be completed within one hour. The testing fee is $115 per application, as of 2019.
Certified Wildlife Rehabilitators must renew their certification every two years and complete two units of continuing education. Continuing education credits may consist of eight hours of attendance at a conference or training event, presentation of a paper at an approved conference, or publication of a paper in a peer-reviewed wildlife journal.
Many wildlife rehabilitation training courses are offered at wildlife centers and community colleges.
The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council offers both in-person physical classes and online classes related to wildlife rehabilitation. Offerings for physical classes include basic wildlife rehabilitation, pain and wound management, parasitology, and zoonoses. Physical classes are offered at many different locations across the country throughout the year. Online class offerings include oil spill volunteering, pain management, parasitology, and wound management. Course costs range from $65 to $260, as of 2019, with discounted rates available for members of the IWRC.
Raritan Valley Community College, a community college in New Jersey, offers wildlife rehabilitation training courses. The program consists of a five-day training course approved by the state division of fish and wildlife. Coursework includes species identification and anatomy, handling techniques, care, nutrition, medical procedures, licensing requirements, regulations, and more. Similar programs are offered in many other states.
The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) offers a weekend wildlife medicine course for veterinary students that includes both lectures and practical labs. Students focus on topics related to medicine, surgery, and management of native wildlife species. The NWRA also offers a yearly symposium for all wildlife rehabilitators that consists of four days of intensive labs and lectures from leading professionals.
St. Tiggywinkles, a British wildlife rehabilitation hospital that bills itself as “the world’s busiest,” offers a comprehensive training course. Students spend 90% of their time in hands-on practical learning with the animals, though classroom-based training is also offered. Two diplomas are offered: Level 1 Diploma in Work-based Animal Care (eight months) and Level 2 Diploma in Work-based Animal Care (11 months). Seasonal volunteer positions also are offered.