Under state law, private citizens are required to have a permit issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to practice wildlife rehabilitation. In virtually all other cases, possessing wildlife is illegal.
A wildlife rehabilitation permit authorizes a wildlife rehabilitator to possess and care for injured, diseased, orphaned, or abandoned wildlife until they can be successfully released back into the wild. WDFW recognizes the service wildlife rehabilitators provide, and is committed to ensuring that the animals in their possession receive humane and correct care.
Requirements to become a wildlife rehabilitator
Applicants must meet the following requirements to become a permitted wildlife rehabilitator:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Demonstrate six months, or 1,000 hours, of experience working with a permitted wildlife rehabilitator, including three months during the spring or summer. Education in wildlife rehabilitation may be considered as a substitute for some experience.
- Submit a Principal Veterinarian Agreement form from a veterinarian who will sponsor you and provide guidance in treating injured, diseased, or abandoned wildlife. Veterinarians may be their own Principle Veterinarian.
- Complete a Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit Application form.
- Successfully pass the written wildlife rehabilitation exam with 80% or more correct. You must take the General Exam regardless of the species you will be rehabilitating. If you are interested in rehabilitating raptors, you must take and pass the Raptor Rehabilitation Exam with at least 80 percent correct. Applicants may take the exams again if they fail.
- Build appropriate housing and care enclosures for your size of facility and pass a facility inspection (See Facility Inspection Form and the NWRA/IWRC Minimum Standards for Wildlife Rehabilitation.) Note that many criteria on the inspection form do not apply to smaller facilities.
- If you wish to rehabilitate birds you must have a Federal Migratory Bird Permit.
Once you meet all of the requirements listed above, WDFW may issue you a permit. You must report all changes on your permit (such as the addition of species) and submit Annual Reports for your permit to remain valid.
If you have questions about becoming a permitted wildlife rehabilitator, contact WDFW Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager Patricia Thompson by email.