Squirrel Wildlife Rehabilitation

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What Is Wildlife Rehabilitation?



My name is Pam, I am a wildlife rehabilitator, which means that I take in injured and orphaned wildlife. Rehabbers are required in most states to be licensed. I am licensed by the state of North Carolina and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

My goal as a rehabilitator is to raise the animals that I receive and return them to the wild. I have been doing this since 1991. Although I have a State and Federal permit I do not take in everything that is covered under those permits. My main focus has been on Eastern Grey Squirrels, Southern Flying Squirrels and Opossums.

How Did I Become A Rehabber

Please keep in mind that the laws in every State vary, but I can explain how I became a rehabber of wildlife in North Carolina and got my permits.

Taking Classes

The first step I took was to take some classes in wildlife rehabilitation that were being offered by a wildlife rehabilitation group in my area. After attending the classes, I was assigned a rehabber to work with one on one. I went to her home and worked with the animals there under her supervision until she and I felt that I was ready to handle a group of squirrels on my own.

Requesting A Permit & Getting Rabies Shots

But before I brought anything home to work with, I filled out a request form from our Wildlife Resources Commission requesting a rehabilitation permit. I had to tell them what experience I had in caring for animals, list all of the cages that I had built and their sizes. I had to give them the name of a veterinarian that I would use.

I was also advised to get the series of pre-exposure rabies shots, which I did. Now let me clear up the myth that is associated with the rabies shots. These shots that I received, and there were 3 of them, were not painful. Nor are these shots given in the stomach any longer, but are given in the upper arm just like a tetanus shot. The nurse that gave me my shots gave them so well that I never even knew she had given them to me. On the advise of my doctor I also got a tetanus shot. The tetanus was by far the more painful shot. I do have to get a rabies booster shot every 2 years.

The chances of my getting in an animal that has rabies is slim and none, but it is for my protection and safety that I receive these shots. There is no treatment for rabies and death is almost assured if you are ever exposed. By the time any symptoms appear, it is too late to do anything to help you.

In our State we are forbidden to take in raccoons, bats, foxes and skunks. These animals are considered to be high risk for rabies. Some animals do not show signs of rabies for months but can still shed the virus. So it is for our protection that the State did this. But what I am afraid of is unsuspecting people may be keeping these animals themselves and trying to raise them and exposing a greater number of people. But if I am caught with any of these animals I can have my permits revoked. I also do not take animals that have bitten anyone.

Getting My Squirrel Room Ready

Now that I have covered rabies...after sending in my request for a permit, I had to get a room in my home ready for the new arrivals. I took an extra bedroom and pulled up the carpet and had a linoleum floor put down. Then I had to paint all of the walls.

Then came the cage building process. I had to purchase hardware cloth in a 100 foot roll and that was not easy to find. Also had to get rabbit cage clips and the pliers to attach the clips to the cage sections to hold them together. Then I spent several days building my cages.

After this was done I had to go out and buy all of my supplies that I would need. Most of the supplies had to be ordered, syringes without needles in various sizes, nipples to go on the end of the syringes, formula, heating pads, cloth diapers, baby receiving blankets (non-fraying blankets should always be used). The list is too long to list here, but suffice it to say it was a notebook page full of items that I had to get.

We use Rubbermaid containers for the babies to sleep in. We take the top and cut out sections and cover the cut outs with screen and tape it down real good from the outside. The babies stay in these boxes until they are about 6 weeks of age. Of course as the babies grow and start to move around they are moved to bigger Rubbermaid containers. The reason we use these containers is they are easy to clean and to sterilize.

This is just a little of what I had to do, but you get the idea.

The Wildlife Officer Pays A Visit

I had to wait for the wildlife officer that is assigned to my county to come and pay me a visit. When he arrived for his visit, he came in and looked at my animal room and examined my cages that I had built. He also checked the supplies that I had on hand. Then we discussed what type of animals I wanted to do. I only wanted to do small mammals which was a good thing because that was the only permit that I could get. This officer was a real nice guy. The last thing that he said to me before he left was, "You need to keep in mind that you cannot save everything that comes thru your front door. I can tell that you are tender hearted, but you need to remember this". At the time I thought that was so cruel for him to say. Little did I know that day that he was absolutely right. Try as we might, we will lose some of the babies that we get and there is nothing we can do to change that. It took my first year to learn what my wildlife officer was trying to tell me.

Well my permit was issued and I was then ready to take in my first animals. Well this hits the highlights of what I had to do to get my State permit.

The Federal Permit

The Federal permit is another story. I was put into a position by my wildlife officer to take a baby bird and I knew it was illegal for me to take it, but I did what my wildlife officer told me to do and took it. After that, I made up my mind to get my permit so I would not get caught like that again. The bird was a Grackle and was a very sweet bird. He was carried to another rehabber when he was ready to go into the aviary and was later released.

All migratory birds are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In order to take in birds, you MUST have a Federal Permit. Without going into a lot about this, there is a TON of paperwork that has to be submitted along with photographs of where the birds will be kept and this includes your outside aviaries. Aviaries are where the birds are kept once they are almost ready to release. You have to provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife with the diet that each type of bird will be fed and where you will get the food that each type of bird will be fed. I had to get a letter from my wildlife officer stating there was a need for a federal rehabber in my area, another rehabber had to write a letter testifying to my ability to do birds, and yet another letter from my wildlife veterinarian saying he would be my vet for the birds. There was a lot of other information that I had to provide, but you get the idea.

Renewing My Permits & Miscellaneous Information

The permits that I have, both the State and Federal, are renewable every year for the state permit and every 5 years for the federal permit and both have to be paid for. They send a form and I have to fill it out and submit it. I also have to keep my permits posted in my home in a place that is viewable. So my permits are framed and hanging in my animal room. I also keep a copy of my permits in my car at all times in case I am transporting any wildlife and get stopped. Then I will have the permits to prove that I do have a legal right to have these animals in my possession. My vet has a copy of these permits also. By law, if I cannot produce a permit showing that I have the right to have these animals, if I carry them to the vet for anything, he is not suppose to return them to me. He is to call a wildlife officer and turn the animals over to him.

Like I said in the beginning, every State is different in its requirements for obtaining a rehabilitation permit. The regulations for the Federal do apply to every person that applies for one and it does not matter where you live. One last note, you must have a State permit in order to get a Federal permit.

Live In NC And Want To Apply For A Permit?

If you live in the state of North Carolina and would like to apply for a rehabilitation permit, you may call the Regulated Activities Permit Section for information at 919-707-0061 or 1-888-248-6834 or print off the NC Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit license forms online in pdf format (you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader). You must fill out and mail in your completed application along with your check to the address listed on the form at the bottom of page 1.

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