Wildlife Regulations and Agencies
By law, state and
federal government agencies are responsible for developing most wildlife
regulations and policies in the United States. The US Fish and Wildlife
Service (USFWS) regulates and oversees actions involving migratory bird,
marine mammal, and threatened and endangered species. States, on the
other hand, have responsibility for the management of all species that
exist within their respective state boundaries.
framework and mandate, state wildlife agencies and the USFWS are
responsible for promulgating regulations that govern and providing
oversight of wildlife rehabilitation activities, which includes
establishing regulations, conducting facility inspections and possibly
tests, granting permits and licenses, enforcing laws, and so forth. In
addition, there are other agencies that affect wildlife rehabilitation
and rehabilitators, such as departments of health and environment,
agriculture, and local planning and zoning, with additional regulations,
ordinances, policies, and statutes.
WildAgain Wildlife Rehabilitation has worked to actively support
wildlife rehabilitators and agencies with helping to promote effective
regulations affecting wildlife and rehabilitation. As a result, we have
conducted three nationwide research studies on wildlife rehabilitation
regulations in all 50 states over the last 10 years; presented at state
and national conferences, as well as to rehabilitation groups and state
and federal agencies; and published the results of this research in the
Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation, NWRA conference proceedings,
websites and newsletters. We also have consulted with numerous
rehabilitators, rehabilitation organizations, and agencies on
rehabilitation regulations and related issues.
We have compiled some
resources that may be helpful for
rehabilitators, agencies and others working on wildlife related
regulations, particularly wildlife rehabilitation. Some of materials are
provided in full, others are links to helpful websites, such as the
National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.
Wildlife Rehabilitation Regulations –
Research and Resources
A Survey and Study
of State Regulations Governing Wildlife Rehabilitation—2004 Update:
Current Regulations and 10–Year Trends.
This study describes and compares wildlife rehabilitation regulations in
all 50 states as they existed in 2004. It also describes trends and
changes over a 10-year period, including in licensing and
qualifications, testing, facilities, and prohibited and restricted
species. Presented at the NWRA National Conference in 2005 and published
in their conference proceedings.
Regulations Impacting Use of Volunteers,
Interns and Staff: Excessive Bureaucracy or Ensuring Quality Animal
Many wildlife rehabilitators holding wildlife rehabilitation licenses or
permits, especially those operating high volume rehabilitation
facilities, have often enlisted help from others (volunteers, staff,
interns). Most of the people helping rehabilitators with tasks involving
direct animal care have not undergone rehabilitation licensure
themselves. Recently, at least one wildlife agency clarified in their
regulations how unlicensed people assisting rehabilitators with direct
wildlife care shall be trained and supervised, permitted tasks they can
perform and new recordkeeping requirements. This paper describes what
prompted these new regulations, approved in
in 2009, on a key aspect of rehabilitation that has generally not been
addressed in state regulations. It describes the regulations as well as
reactions from rehabilitators. Since rehabilitator practices regarding
the training, supervising, and monitoring of unlicensed volunteers,
staff and/or interns can have a direct impact on considerations of
wildlife ‘possession’ and quality of animal care, other state wildlife
agencies may consider similar regulations.
Rehabilitation: Expanding the Wildlife Management Framework.
This paper provides and discusses a conceptual framework that could be
used to help agencies understand that wildlife rehabilitation, while
somewhat ‘outside the box’ of traditional wildlife management, fits
within the changing scope of wildlife agency responsibilities. Published
in the Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation in 1996.
Statement of Need
and Justification for the Regulation of Wildlife Rehabilitation Efforts.
A group of leaders from the wildlife rehabilitation field met regularly
during 1996-97 to discuss wildlife rehabilitation regulations in the US.
This Wildlife Rehabilitation Cooperative Task Force developed a
framework to help guide wildlife agencies and rehabilitators working on
wildlife rehabilitation regulations. The resulting document described
the legal framework, the need to recognize wildlife rehabilitation, and
goals and features of regulation. The document was sent to wildlife
agencies in all 50 states and state rehabilitation associations, and
made available to other interested parties. The Humane Society of the
provided the majority of the funding for this project.
Survey of State Regulations Governing Wildlife
Rehabilitation – 1999.
This paper describes an analysis of wildlife rehabilitation regulations
in all 50 states in the
USA. It describes
wildlife rehabilitation regulations in 1999 and changes during the
previous 5-year period. Presented at the NWRA Conference in 2000, and
published in the conference proceedings.
Survey of State
Regulations Governing Wildlife Rehabilitation – 1994.
This is the first of a two-part article that reviewed wildlife
rehabilitation regulations in all 50 states in the
USA. The research
was presented at the IWRC Conference in 1995, and published in the
Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation.
Governing Wildlife Rehabilitation: A Summary of Best Practices (1995).
This is the second part of a two-part article that reviewed
wildlife rehabilitation regulations in all 50 states in the
It was published in the Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation in
Rehabilitation: Is it for you?
This booklet provides a general introduction to wildlife
rehabilitation, including reasons people become rehabilitators, common
rehabilitation tasks, myths about wildlife rehabilitators, and ways to
learn about wildlife rehabilitation. While it was initially developed to
be distributed by rehabilitators, rehabilitation organizations and
agencies to potential rehabilitators, it also has been used to provide
an orientation for wildlife agency staff, media and others. It was
developed by a team of wildlife rehabilitators from around North America
and used throughout the world.
Do More than People Realize. Discussions
about the benefits provided by wildlife rehabilitators often focus only
animals receiving care and being released back to the wild.
Rehabilitation of individual wild animals is a major objective and
certainly valuable, especially for animal receiving care. However,
rehabilitators provide a wider variety of services than most people may
realize. This paper describes some of those services.
Rehabilitators Contribute to
Public Health. In addition to helping wild
animals regain their health, wildlife rehabilitators activities can
positively impact human health. This paper describes several ways that
rehabilitators support public health, such as provide a facility to take
care of wildlife, communicate information to the public about wildlife,
reduce transmission of wildlife diseases, and inform wildlife and health
agencies about wildlife health problems.
Rehabilitation Demographics and Caseload Analysis: Colorado
This study develops and quantifies statistics that describe the scope
and breadth of the activity in an entire state. This data from Colorado
was compiled from all annual rehabilitator record reports over a
five-year period including 400+ rehabilitator records and 53,000 wild
animals. It provides ‘hard data’ to describe rehabilitators and
rehabilitation activities, including species, the length of time wild
animals are in rehabilitation, disposition statistics, and more. It was
initially published on this website.
A Decade of Wildlife Rehabilitation Demographics
and Caseload Analysis: Colorado 1998-2010. This research
shows twelve-year trends of rehabilitator recruitment, attrition,
caseload, and more. Available in 2011.
Development of Guidelines for Obtaining a Provisional
Wildlife Rehabilitation License and Guidelines for Sponsoring a
Provisional Wildlife Rehabilitator.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife provides a
variety of resources for Colorado rehabilitators and those interested in
becoming a rehabilitator in the state. It includes a booklet and
brochure used in many states for people considering becoming a
rehabilitator (Wildlife Rehabilitation: Is it for you?). While the flow
chart of the process to obtain state and federal rehabilitation licenses
is specific to Colorado, the general sequence may be similar in other
states. The website also includes guidelines for new rehabilitators and
their sponsors/mentors, examples of learning plans, and examples of
documentation to ‘graduate’ from apprentice to full rehabilitator
Rehabilitator’s Code of Ethics.
This document was developed jointly by the International Wildlife
Rehabilitation Council and National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.
It is available for download at
Division of Wildlife: Chapter 14, Wildlife Regulations - excerpted from
the Basis and Purpose of Wildlife Rehabilitation as approved by
the Colorado Wildlife Commission in March, 1995.
"Every year some wild
animals become injured, diseased, orphaned or otherwise distressed. When
people fine these animals their response is often to want to rescue the
wild animals, restore them to health and independence and return them to
the wild. However, proper care of distressed wildlife requires special
knowledge and care that most people do not possess.
remains the property of the people of the state and the responsibility
of the Division of Wildlife. We believe it is the desire of the people
that these animals be rehabilitated and returned to the wild as soon as
possible or euthanized if rehabilitation is not feasible. In the rare
cases it may alternatively be desirable for non-releasable wildlife to
be retained for educational or foster parenting purposes.
The purpose of these
regulations is to recognize wildlife rehabilitation as a legitimate
wildlife related activity and permit qualified individuals to provide
the humane care of distressed wildlife so that such wildlife may be
quickly and successfully returned to the wild, with due consideration of
the health and safety of native wildlife populations, human health and
Working with Wildlife Agencies
In addition to
working personally with government agencies, rehabilitators and others
on wildlife rehabilitation regulations, we’ve worked on a wide range of
other wildlife regulations, policies, legislation and issues since 1992.
We’ve worked as members of groups, members of coalitions of multiple
organizations (local, state, regional, national), and as individuals.
We’ve seen some great strategies and results, as well as some things
that didn’t work. We are very grateful to the many people and
organizations with whom we've learned and worked!
Along the way,
we’ve written a few articles about working with wildlife agencies. We
are absolutely certain that we don’t have all the solutions and still
have much to learn – but are willing to share some of what we’ve learned
with the hope that it can help others working for wildlife.
Influencing Wildlife Policy.
describes how those interested in wildlife policy can increase their
effectiveness in influencing and impacting wildlife policies. It
includes learning about wildlife agencies, policies, and decision-making
processes, building relationships and coalitions, and developing
effective strategies. Presented at the NWRA National Conference in 2000
and published in the conference proceedings.
Tips For Making Your Voice Heard With Government Agencies.
government agencies at all levels are required, by law, to seek and
accept input from the public and affected parties on proposed regulatory
changes. The article provides proven tips to help make your
participation be more effective, such as describing your credentials and
experience related to the topic, identifying reasons for concerns, and
providing workable options. The authors are experienced wildlife
rehabilitators who have worked effectively with wildlife agencies on a
variety of wildlife regulations. First published in NWRA Quarterly,
Strengthening a Relationship with a State Wildlife
This paper describes the approached used to successfully build
understanding of wildlife rehabilitation and its benefits in preparation
of and during the revision of wildlife rehabilitation regulations in the
1994-95 time period. The paper illustrates how regulations that are
supported equally by the agency and rehabilitators can result when an
inclusive and open process allows for each side to better understand the
various aspects of rehabilitation from both the regulator and
Copies of State
and Federal Wildlife Rehabilitation Regulations - available from each agency
(check their websites for online versions)
Wildlife and the
(Berry and Gordon)
The Consensus Building
(Susskind, et al).
Skills for Conservation Professionals
Getting to Yes
State Wildlife Law