Wildlife Encounters - 9th - 12th grade
Lesson 4: Wildlife Rehabilitation
  • Key Words

Why Rehabilitate?

Wildlife veterinarians help wild animals in the same way a doctor would help you if you were sick. They treat injuries, administer medications, and sometimes perform surgeries. Once a patient is healed, it sometimes needs help to be ready to survive again in the wild, and that's where wildlife rehabilitation is needed. Wildlife rehabbers make sure animals are ready to live normally in their habitat before setting them free. Wildlife rehabilitation gives animals – many of whom are injured as a result of human activities – a second chance at life.

It is a lot of work to care for wild animals! It takes a large amount of time, energy, and money for wildlife rehabilitators to successfully release animals back into the wild. Why should humans work so hard to provide care for wild animals that have become sick or injured? There many reasons wildlife rehabilitation is important – just a few are listed below!

Compassion and Human Enrichment

deer rehabilitationIt's natural to want to help a creature that isn't capable of helping itself. Compassion is what makes us human! We have the resources and the knowledge to help animals recover from injuries, heal properly, and be reintroduced to the wild safely. It's important to do our part to be good custodians of wildlife and help safeguard existing populations.

Promoting Ecosystem Health

eagle rehabilitationEcosystems are interconnected webs between all living creatures. Wildlife veterinarians and rehabilitators strive to keep those webs intact by protecting the many species that comprise them. Every species has a niche or role in its ecosystem that helps the whole ecosystem to function. This includes prey animals like rabbits, and predator animals like red tailed hawks. Wildlife rehabilitation helps injured and ill animals return to their ecosystems so that they can continue to fill their niche.

Wildlife rehabilitation is especially important for endangered species. There are very few of these animals left, and wildlife rehabilitation can help make sure more survive to fill their role in the ecosystem.

Doctrine of State Ownership

Illinois state sealWhen your dog or cat becomes sick, you can take them to the veterinarian. Wild animals do not have 'owners' to make sure they get the medical care they need. Instead, the State Ownership Doctrine states that the wildlife of a region is a public trust and 'belongs' to the government of the state in which it lives.

Wildlife rehabilitators are people that the state and federal governments have given permission to provide care for sick and injured wild animals.

Responsible Stewardship

Stewardship is caring for something that is your responsibility. Wildlife is everyone's responsibility, and deserves care from all people. Wildlife rehabilitation is responsible stewardship because it helps wildlife that has been impacted by human activities.

Today more than ever, humans have the ability to completely alter the natural world. Unfortunately, our changes to the environment can be damaging to natural habitats and harm native populations of wild animals. Responsible stewardship of the environment and taking action to undo harm that has already been done will protect ecosystems and make sure our wildlife populations are healthy.

Anthropogenic Quiz

anthropogenic chart Read the questions below, then click on the orange box to see the answer. Click again to close the answer box.

Look at the graph above. The graph represents all of the reptiles that were brought to the University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic over 7 years.

What percent of reptiles were sick or injured from a non-human cause? If 200 total reptiles were presented for care, how many these had anthropogenic problems?

The total percent of reptiles that presented for non-human problems was:

19% + 9% = 28%

The total number of reptiles that presented due to anthropogenic causes was:

200 x 0.57 = 114

Disease Monitoring

bird rehabilitation

Wildlife rehabilitation is good for human health too! Wildlife veterinarians and rehabilitators are often the first to know if a local population of animals is being affected by a disease. That information is especially important if the disease is zoonotic, which means that animals can give the disease to people. Having veterinarians and rehabbers keeping watch for disease threats to people and local wildlife is important.