What is wildlife rehab?
May I raise a wild baby on my own?
May I rehab any wildlife on my own?
May I keep wildlife I find?
May I visit an animal I bring in?
What should I do if I find a baby animal?
If I touch a baby and decide it is best to leave it there, will the mother abandon it?
Will you release the animal back on my property or may I do it myself?
May I volunteer with San Diego Wildlife Center?


What is wildlife rehab?

Wildlife rehabilitation as defined by the State of California is  “any activity undertaken to restore to a condition of good health, for the purpose of release to the wild, animals occurring naturally and not normally domesticated in this State.”

The San Diego Wildlife Center is a state and federally permitted hospital entrusted by the state to take in injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife to be treated and released back to the wild or to humanely end any immediate or potential suffering. (Do we need  to repeat state here?)

May I raise a wild baby on my own?

No. Holding a wild animal in the State of California is against the law if you do not have the proper permits and licenses, even if you plan to release the animal.

Raising a wild animal is a complex process. Each animal species has specific caloric, dietary and behavioral needs. Skipping any feedings or feeding the wrong diet during this critical period can result in irreversible deformities that may not be seen until the animal is a juvenile. Too much handling can prevent them from learning the critical fear and aversion to humans required in the wild and they also need weeks in an appropriate cage or aviary to build necessary muscles and skills for survival. Wildlife rehabilitators have proper state and federal permits and extensive knowledge of the natural history, medical, nutritional and husbandry requirements, as well as the proper facilities to raise wild patients. All ill, injured or orphaned wild animals must be brought to a licensed wildlife care center like the San Diego Wildlife Center.

May I rehab any wildlife on my own?

We love that you care enough to consider it, but it is against the law.

Holding any wildlife in California for more than 48 hours is against state and federal law.  All California wildlife belongs to the state and they require specific permits to be able to rehabilitate them.  Even your local veterinarian is only permitted to hold an animal temporarily until they can get it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility.  It is in the best interest of the wildlife patient to get it to us as soon as possible.  Time is often a critical factor in saving a patient and holding it for even 48 hours before it is admitted is often too long for us to be able to provide life-saving treatment.

May I keep wildlife I find?

It is against the law to keep wildlife.

Not only is it against the law to keep a native or migratory wild animal in your possession, it is also extremely difficult to give a wild creature the freedom, space and proper nutrition necessary for its survival. For their sake, and yours, wild animals should always live in the wild. Even rehab facilities permitted to keep certain  non-releasable animals in an education setting must meet strict criteria.  Most wild animals are not suited to life in captivity and attempting to keep them as pets will often cause them more stress and harm.  We are happy to provide you with options for viewing and appreciating them in the wild.

May I visit an animal I bring in?

We appreciate that you care, but we are not permitted for patient viewing.

Wildlife rehabilitation permits state that we are not allowed to have our patients on display for viewing. As with any hospital, patients need rest and quiet. We also do our best to reduce their exposure to people to ensure that we keep them wild and minimize the stress they experience being in close contact with humans.

What should I do if I find a baby animal?

Please see our Found an Animal or Wildlife Help section for detailed instructions.

It is important to determine if a wild animal truly needs help.  Unless it is clearly injured or weak, many young animals that appear abandoned are not.  Many animals leave their young for long periods of time while they forage and will not return if they think you are too close.  Our Wildlife Help section provides information on all species to guide you.

If I touch a baby and decide it is best to leave it there, will the mother abandon it?

No. In most cases, a wild mother desperately wants her baby back.

You will not leave a scent that frightens the mother away. However, your presence can prevent her from returning.  We suggest placing the baby back where you found it and watching from a distance or checking back in an hour to see if she has returned.  If you see the parent(s) in the area but they are not approaching the baby, you may still be too close.  If a parent is too frightened, it may not feel comfortable to return.  See our Wildlife Help section for more details.

Will you release the animal back on my property or may I do it myself?

We care for our patients until they are back in the wild. So we rely on trained staff and volunteers who have knowledge about the species to carry out releases. These are often very precarious and stressful moments for the patient.

We do our best to release an animal back to its territory but oftentimes, it is not in the animal’s best interest to return to where it was rescued.  San Diego Wildlife Center staff will consider each animal’s case to determine where to release it. Having information about where the animal was found and what the circumstances were at its time of admittance is critical in helping us determine how to treat it and where to release it.

May I volunteer at the San Diego Wildlife Center?

Yes, we rely on specially trained volunteers to help with patient care.

All volunteers must be 18 years of age to volunteer alone.  Minors can volunteer if they are 16 years of age and work with a parent on their shifts. The majority of our patients are birds.  You do not need experience, but all volunteers must go through training and be comfortable working in conditions in which patients may not survive.  It is a fast -paced, medical triage environment where communication with the animals is discouraged.  Volunteers will get dirty and be expected to handle cleaning chores along with animal care.  If this sounds perfect for you, check out our Volunteer section for more details.