About wildlife rehabilitation in Washington

Each year, licensed wildlife rehabilitators provide care for thousands of sick, injured, or orphaned animals throughout Washington state. While their facilities range in size and scope, these dedicated professionals share a commitment to preparing animals – both physically and psychologically – to return to the wild.

Most of these animals – ranging from baby squirrels to birds of prey – are transported to care facilities by members of the public concerned about their welfare. Unfortunately, many animals – particularly young animals – do not need to be “rescued” and removing them from the wild often threatens their survival.

WDFW and wildlife rehabilitation

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) relies on wildlife rehabilitators to take in wildlife species in need of care. While WDFW manages wildlife populations on a broad scale, the department is not equipped to rehabilitate individual animals and values the services provided by permitted wildlife rehabilitators.

Anyone wishing to practice wildlife rehabilitation is required to obtain a Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit from WDFW. This permit is designed to ensure that those engaged in wildlife rehabilitation are trained, qualified, and provide humane care for wildlife in their custody. Under state law, it is illegal to possess any native bird, mammal, reptile, or amphibian without a valid permit.

Contacting a rehabilitator

People who contact a wildlife rehabilitator about a sick, injured, or orphaned animal should be aware that rehabilitators – including veterinarians holding a wildlife rehabilitation permit – are volunteers and are not paid for their services, except by donation. In addition, rehabilitators are:

  • Generally not able to provide services to pick up wildlife.
  • Not on-call 24 hours a day, and many have their facilities at their home.
  • Limited by state and federal permits as to the number and species of animals they may admit to their facility.

WDFW’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Manual describes the training and standards of care required to rehabilitate wildlife in Washington state.