For more information on the Wildlife Rehabilitators Program, please contact WDFW Wildlife Rehabilitation staff.


DO NOT use this email address to report sick or injured wildlife. For sick or injured wildlife please contact a local wildlife rehabilitator




Found Injured Wildlife?

Contact a local Wildlife Rehabilitator

Or call a WDFW Regional Office

Overview of Release Criteria

Rehabilitation and release should only be undertaken when the animal has a reasonable chance for survival in the wild. Meeting release criteria and conditioning are the last important steps in wild animal rehabilitation. Upon release, the animal must suddenly cope with living in a new place and regaining life in the wild. The main consideration is to minimize stress on the animal. Some of the most important release criteria include:

  • recovery from the primary injury/illness
  • positive health screening; zero exposure to infectious diseases and parasites during rehabilitation,
  • physical conditioning,
  • acclimation to weather,
  • release site selection,
  • seasonal timing of release,
  • behavioral and psychological fitness such as food recognition and hunting/foraging skills, and predator recognition and avoidance, including human.

Release of any animal to the wild requires an understanding of many biological and non-biological factors. Reproductive potential for the animal must always be considered and each species’ natural history must be known.

Choosing appropriate release sites is critical for successful wildlife rehabilitation. It is usually best to release the animal where it was found, however sometimes this cannot be done. Once a release site is chosen, a plan for the release should be developed. Equipment and materials must be categorized, organized, and in place (gloves, carriers, nets, etc.). The release plan should account for the many environmental factors.

When to release:

  • during periods of current and forecasted mild, precipitation-free weather.
  • optimal migration time
  • optimal reproductive timing
  • seasonal habitat requirements
  • hunting season dates

If an animal is imprinted or tamed, it is unsuitable for release and will most likely have to be euthanized.

For more information regarding release considerations refer to NWRA’s Principles of Wildlife Rehabilitation.