Wildlife rehabilitators are permitted by the State of Maine to help injured, orphaned, displaced, or distressed wild animals, with the goal of caring for animals in need so they can survive in their wild native habitats. Some of the ways in which wildlife rehabilitators achieve this goal include educating the public about native wildlife (including when to leave animals alone in the wild and when to bring in help), directly caring for and feeding for distressed wildlife, arranging appropriate release of recovered animals, and much more.
Interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator?
First, learn everything the job entails.
Professional wildlife rehabilitation offers many benefits – not only to wildlife, but also to the community and to the rehabilitators themselves. But helping Maine’s wildlife in need is not an easy task. To do it successfully, you need to have specialized knowledge, skills, and facilities, and you will also need to complete training and earn a permit. This system is in place is to protect wildlife, the public, and domestic animals – all of which are put at risk when untrained and uninformed people attempt to rehabilitate wildlife.
The following documents will help you get familiar with the rules and requirements of the job:
- Wildlife Rehabilitation, Is It For You? (PDF), developed by the Wildlife Rehabilitator Recruiting Project. This is a great publication that explains the rigors of wildlife rehabilitation and the issues you’ll need to consider prior to pursuing this career.
- MDIFW Chapter 7 rules (MS Word). These are the rules governing the possession, propagation, research, rehabilitation, or exhibition of any wildlife in captivity in Maine, as well as any live wildlife imported from an area outside the state, including wildlife that has been hybridized, genetically altered, or reared in captivity.
- Minimum Standards for Wildlife Rehabilitation – 4th edition, 2012 (PDF), developed jointly by the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) and the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC). This document outlines professional standards for wildlife rehabilitation.
Next, work toward obtaining your permits.
Step 1: Application, training documentation, and background check
To rehabilitate wildlife in Maine, you must hold a valid State of Maine Wildlife Rehabilitator's Permit. To do so, you must be 18 years of age, submit to a background check, and verify your eligibility by completing the forms below in their entirety. If you also would like to rehabilitate species governed by federal regulations, such as migratory birds and threatened or endangered species, you will need to obtain a Federal Rehabilitator’s Permit.
Application for Wildlife Rehabilitation form (PDF). This is the formal application form that captures your contact and background information.
Certificate of 100-hour training form (PDF). This form documents your training and experience requirements, which include at least 100 hours of training and experience in the care, feeding, handling, and rehabilitation of native wildlife species. You may substitute a Bachelor of Science or higher degree in a relevant biological science from an accredited institution of higher learning for 50 hours of experience.
Professional Reference Forms (PDF). Permit applicants must have at least two professional references. Give this form to your references and have them send it directly to the address or email below.
Statement of Veterinary Support (PDF). Applicants for a wildlife rehabilitation permit are required to develop and maintain a formal relationship with a licensed veterinarian. Use this form to document that partnership.
Facilities Information Form (PDF). Applicants must also have adequate facilities to house and rehabilitate native wildlife species. Use this form to describe your facility and caging plans. Note: you don’t have to have your facility constructed at the time of application. Just plan your proposed facility to adequately house and care for the species you are requesting to rehabilitate.
Applicants are encouraged to reach out to their regional wildlife biologist and district game warden to establish a relationship and inform them of your intention to rehabilitate wildlife.
When you have completed all of your application forms, send them to MDIFW.
Once we receive your complete application and determine that you are eligible, MDIFW will conduct a background check.
Step 2: Examination and additional forms
Once you have cleared the background check and met all other eligibility requirements, the next step toward receiving your wildlife rehabilitation permit is the examination procedure. The examination will focus on proficiency and knowledge of wildlife husbandry, rehabilitation, pertinent state and federal laws, and MDIFW rules.
Before the exam, all applicants should:
- Review the Study Guide (PDF) to ensure your knowledge of wildlife biology, ecology, wildlife rehabilitation practices, policies, and procedures is sufficient for obtaining a permit.
- Use the Exam Booklet (PDF) to familiarize yourself with the questions that will be asked on the written exam. The 100 questions on your exam will be drawn from this test bank.
When you feel prepared for the examination, you can schedule a time to take it at MDIFW’s Augusta office or one of the regional offices, depending on availability of a regional wildlife biologist.
To move forward in the process, you must score > 80% on the examination. If you don’t achieve that score, you may review the training materials and schedule a time to retake the examination after a two-week waiting period.
Once you have satisfied all of the requirements from Step 2, you will be issued a notice of pre-approval, pending the construction of your facilities and their inspection by the Department.
Step 3: Facilities inspection and permit review
Facilities Inspection - Once a pre-approved applicant has completed the physical construction of their facility, they can schedule a facilities inspection with a regional wildlife biologist. If there are any deficiencies or required changes to the facility, the applicant will be notified by the Department and given the opportunity to address any issue and have the facility re-inspected.
Permit Review - Once all of the steps in the application process have been satisfied, the Department will review all submitted materials and determine which species, under what conditions, an applicant is authorized to provide rehabilitative care, and issue a permit based on those conditions. This may include issuing a permit on provisional status or restricting the species that can be rehabilitated until such a time when the applicant has satisfied all the deficiencies in facilities, training, or required experience.
Thank you for your willingness to follow this procedure. It has been designed with input from wildlife rehabilitators in Maine to ensure ethical and professional treatment of wildlife and the effectiveness of Maine's wildlife rehabilitation program.
If you have any questions about the application process, or need special consideration or assistance to complete it, please contact Scott Lindsay, Wildlife Rehabilitation Program Coordinator, (207) 287-5745.
All applications, permits, and forms to become a wildlife rehabilitator or to renew your permit should be sent to the follow address.
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
ATTN: Wildlife Rehabilitation
41 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0041
or via email: Rehab.IFW@maine.gov
Note: This email is not monitored 24/7 and the public should NOT use this email to report injured or orphaned wildlife.
All permittees must submit a summary annual report no later than January 31st each calendar year using the form below, even if the permittee did not take in any animals for rehabilitation. Volunteer, intern, and sub-permittee activities should be submitted under the permittee’s report.
Extension of custody for prolonged care or unusual circumstances
All rehabilitated wildlife must be released from care and rehabilitation within six months of receipt of animal. In the vast majority of patient cases, this six-month time period will be adequate to provide appropriate rehabilitative care. However, in the rare circumstance that requires an animal to be kept for longer, a permittee may request an extension by filling out a Request for Time Extension for Possession of an Animal in Care. The request will be reviewed by the Department and the permittee will be notified of approval or denial.
Complaints pertaining to wildlife in captivity or an ADC agent
Complaints pertaining to wildlife in captivity or an ADC agent will be investigated by the Department. To file a complaint or report an activity that you believe is inconsistent with the rules and regulations of wildlife in captivity, please complete an Incident Report form (PDF) and submit it to MDIFW. To file a complaint pertaining to an ADC agent, please complete the ADC Incident Report Form (PDF) and submit it to MDIFW.