How to Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

How to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

How to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator : Imagine you’re driving home after an evening out and a wallaby jumps in front of your car. You can’t stop in time and hit it. The female wallaby has died but you notice her pouch is quite large and when you have a look inside you see a joey. What do you do next and have you got what you need in your car?

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At a recent Sunshine Coast Land for Wildlife workshop, participants learnt the basics of wildlife rescue and put together their own wildlife rescue basket to keep in their cars. The workshop was run by the capable volunteers Roslyn Leslie, Donna Anthony and Sylvia Whiting from Wildlife Volunteers Association Inc (WILVOS). As a result of this workshop, over 30 Land for Wildlife members now have the knowledge, skills and equipment they need to assist injured wildlife that they may come across.

How to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator


The most common calls that WILVOS receives are related to baby birds that have fallen out of nests due to high winds or other accidents. If you come across this scenario, the ideal response is to place a hanging basket (or similar) high up with the birds in it, near the place you found them, and usually the parent(s) will come back to look after them. You can make the hanging basket look a little more lifelike by putting grass or bracken in it. If the birds aren’t found by their parents in an hour or so then the chicks need to go into care.

Of course there are some baby birds that may look abandoned, e.g. Masked Lapwing (plover) or Brush Turkey chicks, but aren’t, and these should be left alone. Birds that have hit windows and are stunned should be supported. Wrap a towel in a horseshoe shape and place the bird in the middle of the horseshoe. Rest their head on the towel and keep their airway clear and their back supported.

How to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

Sick Koalas often have red eyes, due to conjunctivitis, and a stained bottom. Don’t climb trees to catch injured or sick Koalas, ring a specialised Koala rescue group for professional assistance.

Kangaroos & Wallabies
All female marsupials have a pouch and often have young attached at the nipple. Pulling a small joey off a nipple can cause permanent damage to the joey’s jaw or brain. Instead (and this is not for the fainthearted) it is recommended to use scissors to cut the nipple off the dead mother and then pin the nipple to the inside of the sleeping bag (very rarely the joey could swallow the nipple and choke). If the wallaby or kangaroo has a very long nipple there might be a bigger joey nearby who has become separated from its mother so listen to see if you can hear it (they make soft contact sounds).

How to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

Never attempt to rescue an injured snake – always contact a professional snake catcher or wildlife rescue group.

Notebook and pen are required to take notes of where you picked the animal up and your observations. This is especially important for territorial animals. Towels are handy for catching animals, e.g. draping a towel over an injured bird before you pick it up. Towels are also used for covering hot water bottles or as padding in the basket. Pillow slips are best turned inside out. Place the animal inside and tie a knot in the end of the pillowcase to keep it secure.

All animals suffer from shock so put warm (not boiling) water in a hot water bottle, wrap it in a towel and put the animal on top of this. An exception to this rule is echidnas as they don’t cope with heat.

It’s best to place wildlife in a securely fastened basket as you don’t want an unconscious animal to wake up while you are driving, ending in both of you panicking at the same time! Echidnas must be placed in a sturdy container.

How to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

Your safety is paramount. Never do something you feel uncomfortable with and certainly don’t tackle large animals that are in obvious distress. Adult kangaroos and wallabies undergo myopathy (shock) when in care and die from stress. Because of this, the animal should be put down humanely. In these situations ring Policelink on 131 444.

Most native wildlife have sharp claws, teeth or beaks so it is recommended never to touch them bare-handed. The easiest technique is to drop a towel over them and then pick them up. It’s best to wear disposable gloves when handling wildlife.

How to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

Road safety around injured wildlife is especially important and each basket should have a fluoro safety vest included. Make sure that it is always safe to pull over and that you won’t be injured or cause an accident trying to rescue injured wildlife. If you do check a dead animal on the roadside, once finished, pull the body off the road so that other scavenging wildlife are not hit by a car as well. Unless you are trained in handling bats and are vaccinated against rabies (due to risk of Australian Bat Lyssavirus) do not approach, pick up or touch any bat (microbats and flying foxes). Contact a wildlife care organisation or specialist bat carer.

How to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

It’s best to treat a native animals the same way you would like to be treated. Ring a wildlife care organisation (see contact details right) for help and if necessary get the animal to the vet ASAP. There are laws about how long you can hold wildlife for without passing the animal on to a registered carer. These times vary for different species but a good ball park figure is to make sure the animal has gone into care within 24 hours.

Unless you are trained, do not feed animals or give them water. Often the animal will aspirate water into their lungs and most animals have very specific dietary requirements and feeding inappropriate food will do more harm than good.

If you would like to do more for injured and orphaned wildlife, the organisations listed to the right are always looking for volunteers and offer excellent training to learn how to become a wildlife rehabilitator.

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