LDWF WILDLIFE REHABILITATION PROGRAM

“A WAY TO NURSE WOUNDED ANIMALS & RETURN THEM TO THE WILD”

By Trey Isles, LDWF Public Informations

The sight of injured wildlife brings out compassion in most people. It’s human nature to try and help a wounded animal.

It’s a job, however, best left to professionals. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries created its wildlife rehabilitation program with that in mind. LDWF issues permits to a number of qualified individuals to take in injured wildlife, nurse the animals back to health then release them back into their native habitat.

If you’re an animal lover, it sounds like a cool gig, right?  But LDWF biologist supervisor Melissa Collins, who oversees the wildlife rehabilitation program, says it is not for everybody. The amount of time, space and money needed can make it prohibitive.

“We’re always glad when someone is interested in our program,’’ Collins said. “But we certainly want to let them know up front what it entails. It takes a lot of resources and you’ll be amazed at the amount of time that you must devote to these animals. For example, depending on the species, you may need to feed certain animals every 20 minutes for a time.’’

Collins said that’s why she recommends that anyone with genuine interest in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator consider starting in an apprenticeship program.

Each LDWF-permitted wildlife rehabilitator is allowed to have up to five sub-permittees, or apprentices. Sub-permittees are able to learn the ropes about wildlife rehabilitation from an expert.

“A sub-permittee is someone who takes non-rabies vector species from the licensed rehabilitator to their own home or facility,’’ Collins said. “Many people who want to do this want to do it right now. This is the best way to be able to rehab right now. It allows you to receive hands-on training, start now and eventually work to becoming a licensed rehabilitator.

“Even if you don’t have the space, time and money but you can handle, for example, two squirrels a year, that’s okay. Start small. Come in with the attitude that I’ll start small and I’ll work up.’’

Many of LDWF’s permitted wildlife rehabilitators will only take in specific species or animals. For instance, some take in only mammals and reptiles while others just birds and small mammals.

Collins said another advantage of the sub-permittee program is that she is able to connect an interested person with a permitted wildlife

rehabilitator who lives near them and who is willing to work with the same species.

The process of becoming a permitted wildlife rehabilitator is rigorous. After going through hands-on training, potential rehabilitators must get a letter of recommendation from either someone already permitted or a veterinarian. There are also mandatory training classes, and LDWF must inspect the facility that will be used in the rehab process.

Rehabilitators also can’t get attached to the animals. After getting the okay from a veterinarian, permitted rehabilitators must release the animal back into its habitat.

In addition, they may not rehabilitate deer, black bears, alligators, wild turkeys or any threatened or endangered species.

Some other rules to note for potential rehabilitators:

*    They must be 18 or older.

*    Convicted felons or individuals with a Class 2 or greater wildlife violation are ineligible.

*    They must complete the LDWF wildlife rehabilitation course followed by a 100 question

      test.

*    Wildlife held under the program must be handled minimally and without public contact.

*    Rehabilitated wildlife may not be imported into or exported out of Louisiana.

*    A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird permit is required to possess any bird listed on the migratory bird list.

If you think you’d like to be a wildlife rehabilitator, contact Collins at mcollins@wlf.la.gov or 225-763-8584. For more information on LDWF’s rehabilitation program, go to www.wlf.louisiana.gov/ wildlife-rehabilitation-program.

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