Wildlife rehabilitation is the process of providing temporary care to wildlife that is injured, sick or immature to help them successfully return to the wild.

In Ontario, only wildlife custodians (authorized wildlife rehabilitators) are legally able to provide wildlife rehabilitation.

Only knowledgeable, experienced wildlife custodians may rehabilitate wildlife. If rehabilitation is not done properly, it could cause risk to wildlife in the wild. For example, moving a raccoon infected with rabies or distemper can spread the disease.

The ministry’s role in wildlife rehabilitation includes:

  • administering authorizations to keep wildlife in captivity for rehabilitation
  • regulating wildlife rehabilitation to ensure sustainable wildlife populations
  • providing standard rules and conditions that wildlife custodians must follow to minimize potential risks to wildlife populations (such as those related to wildlife disease)
  • working with authorized wildlife custodians to manage the risks associated with their activities so that healthy wildlife can be returned to their natural habitat

Wildlife custodians (authorized wildlife rehabilitators)

Wildlife custodians:

  • have a wildlife custodian authorization that allows them to keep wildlife temporarily for rehabilitation
  • may provide care and rehabilitation to injured, sick or orphaned wildlife for release back into their natural habitat and point of origin
  • can provide advice on the best options to help an animal that appears sick, injured or orphaned

Did you know

Sometimes the best way to help a wild animal is by leaving it alone. What looks like wildlife in distress may be normal behaviour.

The wildlife cared for by wildlife custodians are not pets. Wildlife custodians make sure the wildlife they help are kept away from people and pets. This helps ensure that animals have their best chance of survival once they are released back to the wild.

Wildlife custodians provide an important service to the people and wildlife of Ontario. Their work requires a significant amount of time and their own resources. Many ask for donations to help continue their work.

Wildlife custodians support wildlife health by:

List of wildlife custodians

Ontario has approximately 70 wildlife custodians.

To find a wildlife custodian, view our Public list of authorized wildlife rehabilitators.

This is not a complete list of wildlife custodians in Ontario. The custodians on this list have agreed to share their contact information on this website.

How to become a wildlife custodian

Being a wildlife custodian is a significant commitment of time and money. Volunteering with an existing wildlife custodian is a great way to help wildlife and learn more about wildlife rehabilitation.

Wildlife custodians obtain training, advice, knowledge and skills advancement from:

If you wish to become a wildlife custodian, you may begin the process with the following steps.

Step 1: Study for the Ontario Wildlife Rehabilitation Exam (OWRE)

Contact your local ministry work centre to request home-study materials to help you prepare for the OWRE.

Study materials include:

The study material, in particular the study guide, will help you determine if you want to apply to become authorized as a wildlife custodian.

Step 2: Pass the OWRE

Contact your local ministry work centre to set up an examination date and location.

If you want to rehabilitate mammals, you will also need to pass the rabies portion of the OWRE).

You must pass the exam with a minimum score of 80%.

Step 3: Apply for a wildlife custodian authorization

Once you have passed the exam and you are ready to apply for a wildlife custodian authorization, contact your ministry work centre to complete and submit an application.

Passing the OWRE does not guarantee you will be authorized.

The application and any materials submitted with it should demonstrate:

  • your previous training or relevant experience in rehabilitating wildlife
  • your ability to operate in compliance with the requirements of the wildlife custodian authorization

If you become authorized, you are also responsible for determining what other legal requirements may apply. This could include federal, provincial, municipal or other requirements. For example, some municipalities have by-laws in place limiting the possession of wildlife.