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How to get a wildlife rehabilitation license

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issues licenses for wildlife rehabilitation to ensure that all persons engaged in wildlife rehabilitation are qualified and provide humane care and housing for rehabilitated wildlife. The department's responsibility is to assess all applicants and work with those who can provide proper care.

Persons agreeing to accept this responsibility must be willing to donate their own personal time and assume the financial obligations that come with providing quality animal care. Before applying for a license, we recommend volunteering at an established wildlife rehabilitation facility or with an individually licensed rehabilitator. Also consider becoming a member of state, national or international wildlife rehabilitation organizations. Read their newsletters and attend a conference or workshop to learn about rehabilitation. This will help you decide whether you want to dedicate the time, effort and money it takes to be a good rehabilitator.

Wisconsin also has wildlife rehabilitation regulations to help ensure humane care and housing for wildlife in rehabilitation, and all licensed rehabilitators should be familiar with these regulations. The Wildlife Rehabilitation Rule has been adopted by the Natural Resources Board and approved by the legislature.

To receive a Basic License to rehabilitate wildlife in Wisconsin, you must complete the following.

  1. Be at least 18 years of age.
  2. Pass an examination meeting the requirements of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Rule (s. NR 19.75).
  3. Complete an application. (We highly recommend that you pass the examination before applying for a license.)
  4. Possess a signed Sponsorship Agreement form stating an Advanced Licensee (Sponsor Designation Form) is willing to mentor your wildlife rehabilitation activities.
  5. Possess a signed Consulting Veterinarian Agreement stating a veterinarian licensed to practice in Wisconsin is willing to consult and assist with the care and treatment of wildlife being rehabilitated.
  6. Maintain facilities meeting the requirements of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Rule (s. NR 19.77). Facility Inspection Form and Caging Report.
  7. Actively maintain facility standard protocols signed by your consulting veterinarian. Example protocols are listed below.

Applicants applying for an Advanced License must have their sponsor(s) and consulting veterinarian(s) complete a Basic Level Evaluation Form documenting the applicant's wildlife rehabilitation experience and qualifications.

All Wisconsin wildlife rehabilitation licenses are valid for three years. To renew, licensed wildlife rehabilitators must complete a Wildlife Rehabilitation License Renewal Application. Licenses can only be renewed if all annual and quarterly reports for the previous three years have been submitted to the department.

If you receive a wildlife rehabilitation license, please understand that care for these animals is only temporary. Wildlife rehabilitation is to provide care or treatment to an orphaned, sick or injured wild animal for the purpose of releasing it back into the wild. If a wild animal is not capable of being rehabilitated or having a reasonable chance of survival in the wild, it must either be humanely euthanized or require another disposition as determined by the department.

Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are required to keep records of all wildlife rehabilitation activities that occur at their facility. It is required to submit annual and quarterly reports, even if no animal activity was recorded. Annual reports must include all animals admitted to a facility, and are due Jan. 31 for the previous year's activities. Quarterly reports are for designated species only and are due April 30, July 31, Oct. 31 and Jan. 31 for the previous quarter's activities.

Wildlife rehabilitation examination

In accordance with NR 19.75, Wis. Admin. Code, any person wanting to obtain a basic license to rehabilitate wildlife must take a written examination and pass with a score of 80% or greater. The intent of the exam is to test your understanding of basic rehabilitation concepts and information resources, not the specifics of injury or disease in any particular species. If you are unsuccessful in passing the exam on your first attempt, you may take it again in 30 days.

The exam is available for prospective licensees at all DNR Service Centers throughout the state. To schedule an appointment, please contact the Wildlife Rehabilitation Program.

Study tips

Additional wildlife rehabilitation licensing

If you wish to rehabilitate migratory birds and raptors, you must apply for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service migratory bird rehabilitation permit in addition to applying for a state license. Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service migratory bird Permitting Officer in Bloomington, Minnesota for information.