BY MELISSA JACOBS
I have been a licensed mammal wildlife rehabilitator and volunteer
over 15 years in the State of New Jersey. …Being a licensed wildlife
rehabilitator means the following but is not limited to:
- Serve the NJ tax-payers for free by answering their calls/concerns
regarding wildlife at all times of the day and night
- Take-in and rehabilitate injured, orphaned wildlife
- Find safe release sites for the rehabilitated wildlife
- Supply medical care, food, shelter, supplies, etc. for each animal
at our expense
- Work very closely with local shelters, veterinarians, conservation
officers, landscapers, tree experts and even a very few decent pest
control companies to help relieve the stress, misery and suffering that
the wildlife in
NJ is encountering at a rapidly increasing rate each year
- Protect the good-willed public from interfering with or harming
themselves and wildlife
- Educate the public about our indigenous wildlife
- Deal with an increasing amount of animal abuse and illegal trapping
Although nobody has forced us to perform this service, this is a way
of trying to help relieve the damage we as humans have caused and are
continuously causing to our environment. For many of us, this is
our avocation – our contribution.
Prior to 2002, there was always an increase in the number of new rehabilitators each year. Since 2002, there has been a serious and
decline in licensed wildlife rehabilitators. The rate of public
rehabilitator burnout and wildlife suffering is at an all time high.
In the not too distant past there were over 100 licensed
there are only 30 across the entire State.
Twenty one of the 30 rehabilitate mammals (or a combination of large/
small mammals, bats, birds and/or reptiles). One rehabilitates bats
One rehabilitates deer only. One located in Delaware rehabilitates birds
contaminated by oil spills mostly. One rehabilitates turtles only. Four
rehabilitate certain birds. One rehabs all reptiles/turtles.
Clearly the way the rehabilitator list is designed, it appears that
there are many, but there are not nearly enough rehabilitators to cover
the amount of calls we receive for the types of species in need.
You may check the list out at
http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/rehablst.htm to see if there is
a rehabilitator available in your County.
The wildlife rehabilitators and volunteers I have networked with came
from all walks of life including veterinarians, zoologists, veterinary
technicians, wildlife biologists, college professors, school teachers,
doctors, healthcare providers, business professionals, conservation
officers, veterinary students, and more. There is already quality,
education, standards and professionalism among the wildlife
NOBODY wants the training and continuance of education of a wildlife
rehabilitator to be compromised or relaxed. Each year that I have been
licensed, the conditions placed upon keeping that license have become
Some of these demands are certainly reasonable, and have been put in place in the best interest of the public and wildlife. But for other
and unfair demands, we have lost so many dedicated rehabilitators and
is the true reason for this decline.
As an avocation it seems that a volunteer position should get easier
with more support, but instead it has become more difficult and
stressful. Once you know that the public and wildlife needs your
expertise and assistance, it is hard to turn away no matter what the
Because of the increase in public interaction with wildlife, there is
demand and need for more wildlife rehabilitators right now. The public,
veterinarians and shelters are screaming for help, and the recent
decline in wildlife rehabilitators must be corrected.
In a joint effort, several wildlife rehabilitators, The Humane
Society, Monmouth County SPCA and New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance were kind enough to help run a volunteer recruiting program this past winter.
We have managed to seek out and bring to the surface very dedicated, educated volunteers that wish to become licensed wildlife rehabilitators
in the near future.
In joint cooperation with the State, we can increase the number of dedicated, knowledgeable volunteers to help rehabilitate our wildlife. A strong recruiting program with the required training is one proven and positive way to get this show on the road.
My calls have jumped from an average of 100 per year to nearly 800
since February. The shelters have an unimaginable amount of wildlife
calls with only a few rehabilitators to turn to. We are trying to get
the attention and
cooperation of the State and the public to recognize this dilemma and
program in place to increase the number of wildlife rehabilitators
compromising professionalism, education, quality of care and training.
Increasing the number of wildlife rehabilitators through a joint
effort is a responsible way to balance out the damage we are causing to
our wildlife without compromising risk to public health.
Please contact Melissa Jacobs, a NJ licensed wildlife rehabilitator, if
would like to help support a program that will help increase the number
of licensed NJ wildlife rehabilitators. Her e-mail address is: