Becoming a wildlife rehabilitator involves a commitment to care for injured, ill, and orphaned wild animals with the
goal of releasing them back to their natural habitat. Specializing in turtles adds a bit more to that
commitment because turtle rehabilitators also become rescuers. There are many reasons for this, one being there
are just a few situations when a turtle CAN be released back into the wild.
It cannot be released unless it is from an area it was originally from and not exposed to other turtles
due to the fact that pathogens and parasites can be passed to existing turtle populations
and to the released turtle. Rehabilitated turtles take much longer to heal from some injuries which can prevent
them from being released in a timely manner. Hibernation periods need to be considered. Rehabilitators
also are committed to environmental concerns regarding destruction of wildlife habitats. Some are involved with
special programs such as captive breeding and reintroduction back into the wild. Education is an important part of
rehabilitation. It is imperative that pet owners know how to properly care
for their animals.
Each state has its own requirements for becoming a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. If you are interested in becoming
a licensed rehabilitator, contact your local Department of Natural Resources or your Division of Fish and
Wildlife office. Also, shadowing a rehabilitator or volunteering at a wildlife center is a rewarding experience.
There you will see first hand the 'good days and the bad days'.
On a personal note, As of January of 2019, I have renewed my wildlife rehabilitator's permit with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. After not being licensed last year, I realized that my help was needed for our turtles. Rehabilitation is not to be taken lightly and I realized that there are not many licensed rehabbers that are knowledgeable in treating these wonderful reptiles. They take many months in the healing process after injuries and because of their body encased in a shell, it is sometimes difficult to know if internal injuries are hidden. Also, many people think that rehabbers are paid by the Indiana DNR, which is not true. We rely on donations and money from ourselves to finance what we do. The rewards we gain are important to us such as meeting caring individuals, working together with other rehabilitators and veterinarians, and releasing a healed animal back in to the wild where it belongs. I smile as I write this thinking of the times I released those wonderful 'patients' I helped.