Working at a wildlife rehabilitation Center: things you should know

Becoming directly involved in wildlife rehabilitation can be rewarding. You will get to see and handle animals you’ve only viewed from a distance or in pictures or videos. It can be a wonderful feeling to help an animal and watch baby animals grow and develop.

You also become a valued member of a wildlife team. Many life-long friendships have formed while working together to save wildlife and you become part of the “Red Creek Family.” But the most rewarding part is opening your hands and setting an animal free.

There are negative aspects to wildlife rehabilitation though. When applying for any position with Red “Creek Wildlife Center, Please ask yourself the following questions to see if this activity fits well with your personality and abilities.

Hands-off Policy

In DOMESTIC animal rescue (such as SPCAs, humane societies, farm sanctuaries, etc.) touching and coddling can be beneficial to the emotional well-being of the animal. The exact opposite is true with wildlife rehabilitation.

The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to release the animals back into the wild. Because of this, it is imperative that the animals remain wild and do not become habituated to people, including staff. Wildlife rehabilitation is a hands-off type of animal work and a professional distance must be maintained at all times.

Question: Can I refrain from touching, holding and comforting an animal, even a cute baby animal?

Pre-conceived ideas

Because of televised programs about wildlife rescue or wildlife rescue veterinarians, many people have elevated ideas about what working in a wildlife center is like. In the real world, wildlife rehabilitators are working with minimal funding and equipment to save as many animals as we can. Equipment and caging is often donated and antiquated. Xrays and surgery is not available at the clinic and veterinary care involves a lengthy commute. Volunteering is often equated to working on a farm rather than in a modern veterinary hospital.

Question: Can I set aside any preconceived ideas I may have and take the time to learn the history and progress of the facility where I will be helping?


Working in animal care at Red Creek Wildlife Center requires bending, kneeling and carrying buckets of water up to 30 pounds. Cages are cleaned and disinfected with simple green cleaner, dawn dishwashing liquid, bleach and nolvasan.

Question: Can I meet the physical requirements of volunteering? Can I work around these chemicals?

The rehabilitation of ALL wildlife

Red Creek accepts all species of Pennsylvania wildlife except bear and adult deer. This includes animals often thought of as undesirable such as starlings, snakes, skunks, raccoons and coyotes.

Question: Can I give good care to animals that I find undesirable, smelly or ugly?

Feeding carnivores?

Many animals presented for rehabilitation are carnivores. This means there will be dead animals that will be fed to carnivores. Red Creek has freezers of frozen mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs and baby chickens that are used for food. Most of these are thawed and fed whole, but occasionally it is necessary to process them prior to feeding (sectioning with scissors or skinning).

Question: Am I comfortable with the idea that animals are fed to other animals?

Question: Can I prepare and process these to feed to the other animals.


Red Creek receives over 4,000 animals each year. Many of these animals come to us suffering severe injuries or illness. Some might not reach a level of health needed for release. These animals cannot be warehoused and the rehabilitator on duty may make the decision to euthanize the animal.

Please note: Volunteers and interns will never be asked to euthanize an animal.

Question: Can I witness extreme suffering without it affecting my emotional health?

Question: Can I remain emotionally distant and accept that euthanasia is a necessary and compassionate part of rehabilitation? Can I refrain from crying, begging, judging or becoming hostile with the rehabilitator?