Native Wildlife Rehabilitation

mountain lion cub on exam table
little brown bat in gloved hand
San Joaquin kit fox treated in field
black bear getting scanned in facility


In California, wildlife rehabilitation means "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."

Staff work with permitted facilities and agency partners to ensure high quality practices in the rehabilitation of sick, injured, or orphaned native wildlife. At times, the Department may provide veterinary treatment and temporary care of a wild animal (e.g., injury due to wildfire). The Department is NOT a wildlife rehabilitation facility. Learn more about wildlife rehabilitation in California!

Wildlife Rehabilitation

Proper care of wildlife in distress requires special knowledge, training, and experience not possessed by the general public. A wildlife rehabilitator may operate a permitted facility at one location, use satellite facilities, or an approved home site to perform wildlife rehabilitation. Interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator? There are several steps to consider.

Wildlife rehabilitation bear cub
  • Is there a “need” for a new wildlife rehabilitation facility? The Department will consider if there are any permitted facilities in the vicinity of a proposed facility. Currently permitted facilities maintain established standard protocol and standards specific to that specific area of the state.
  • Are you able to obtain two letters of need from nearby permitted facilities? A letter of need helps the Department determine if local facilities are overwhelmed or need help with specific species.
  • Do you have 400 hours of "required experience"? Interested parties may outreach a nearby permitted facility to meet this requirement.
  • Would a new facility, satellite facility, or home site violate any city or county zoning ordinances? A jurisdiction may require a special permit from their planning department (e.g., conditional use permit). Many jurisdictions do not have language specific to wildlife rehabilitation.
  • For more information please email the Wildlife Rehabilitation Program Coordinator at

Permitted Wildlife Rehabilitators

Wildlife rehabilitators are allowed to temporarily possess wildlife for the purposes of rehabilitation under a CDFW wildlife rehabilitation permit. A permit is valid for three years. Most wildlife rehabilitators, their staff or volunteers, do not provide services to pick up wildlife. They rely on the public to transport animals to them. Be courteous and mindful of this when calling for assistance.


  • Never drop off wild animals at a location, unless instructed to do so.
  • Wildlife rehabilitators often work out of their homes. They are not "on-call" (24 hours/day, 7 days/week).
  • Wildlife rehabilitators may specialize in certain species and establish limits on the number of animals they can accept.
  • Wildlife rehabilitation facilities are non-profit entities. They operate with often limited resources and/or dedicated volunteers.

striped raccoon in the wild

Permitted Wildlife Rehabilitators & Facilities

Laws and Regulations

The rehabilitation of wildlife and care of non-releasable animals are only allowed pursuant Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), relevant state and federal laws. The possession of a Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit and Memorandum of Understanding is required for any person or facility to possess and rehabilitate wildlife in California.

The possession of a Restricted Species Permit is required for every person who imports, exports, transports, or possesses any restricted animal listed in California. Certain non-native species that may be kept as pets in other states (e.g., ferret, hedgehog) are a restricted pet species here. Native wild animals and restricted species may be confiscated due to illegal possession or animal welfare issues.

Non-Releasable Wildlife

Some injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife brought into a permitted wildlife rehabilitation facility, confiscated by law enforcement, or provided temporary care by the Department, are not suitable candidates for release. In some cases, a wild animal has been determined to have permanent impairment altering their ability to survive in the wild. In other cases, an animal may be a habituated or imprinted on humans, a welfare animal, or a non-native restricted species.

  • Staff work tirelessly to find permanent placement for animals that cannot be returned to the wild at qualified permitted facilities.
  • If any animal cannot be released, it shall be transferred to a zoological garden, museum, college, university or other educational/research institution or wildlife exhibitor.
  • If any animal cannot be released or transferred, it shall be humanely euthanized.