The State of California and other federal agencies regulate the types of wildlife rehabilitation facilities that are allowed to take in sick, injured, or abandoned animals. Wildlife rehabilitators must have state and federal permits to possess these animals for treatment, feeding, and eventual release back into the wild.
All rehabilitators must be licensed by their local government agency (i.e., federal or state agency, county or city) in order to possess wildlife. However, only a few states require rehabilitators to be licensed and inspected periodically.
The animals that are taken in by these rehabilitation facilities include mammals, birds, and some reptiles. Mammals include rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, skunks, deer, wild pigs, porcupines, bats, guinea pigs, rats, mice, shrews, and armadillos. Birds include raptors (birds of prey), waterfowl (ducks and geese), owls, songbirds such as sparrows and starlings, crows, and ravens.
A few states also permit rehabilitation of reptiles such as rattlesnakes, turtles, and lizards.
Animals in these facilities are mainly orphans that have been found by concerned citizens or picked up by rehabilitators who have the experience to determine if an animal is truly orphaned. With increasing habitat loss, more animals are being pushed into closer proximity to humans and are more likely to be involved in conflicts with humans.
In the city, this is mostly seen as birds roosting on window ledges and causing a mess or squirrels and raccoons foraging in people’s yards and gardens.
These urban wildlife species are protected by law against harm from the general public because of very successful negative public relations campaigns by the animal protection organizations. Despite this, many people still believe that they can take matters into their own hands and harm or kill these animals because “they’re not pets.”
Many of our wildlife species are protected by state laws that are very specific about when and how a person may legally interfere with them (i.e., harass, capture, take, kill). The laws are especially strict with regard to the birds in our cities because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about the facts of animal rehabilitation.