Caring for wildlife
What does a Wildlife Carer do?
Typical Wildlife Carer duties
Wildlife Carers typically undertake the following duties:
- All aspects of animal husbandry (care, raising and breeding) and welfare.
- Assisting with the cleaning of animal areas.
- Regular inspections of the animals.
- Assisting with the preparation of approved diets and carrying out the correct feeding procedures.
- Assisting with medical treatments.
- Maintaining courteous and helpful relations with visitors, including educating visitors.
- Assisting with animal enrichment programmes.
- Following procedures to ensure wildlife welfare, and health and safety of staff and visitors.
- Collecting data and/or maintaining accurate records.
Veterinarians typically undertake the following duties:
- Performing and/or overseeing all aspects of veterinary care, including diagnostic techniques (e.g. radiology), treatment techniques, surgery, emergency response, and (in some cases) euthanasia.
- Preventive care, such as routine examinations, vaccinations, parasite management, quarantine, etc.
- Maintaining medical records.
- Developing and implementing medical treatment protocols and policies.
- Training and supervising support staff, interns, and/or volunteers in medical-related activities.
- Maintaining medical equipment and a safe, effective working environment.
- Capturing, transporting, tagging and releasing.
- Following international best practice for animal welfare.
- Communicating with staff, partners and/or the public.
Wildlife Carer employer types
Types of conservation employers that hire Wildlife Carers include:
Wildlife Carer sub roles
One of the main Wildlife Carer sub roles is working in conservation as a Veterinarian (Vet), including as a Wildlife Vet, Zoo Vet or Research Vet.
As a wildlife veterinarian you rarely treat the animals themselves. Instead, your focus is on keeping their habitat safe for them and safe for the humans living there.
The main part of the job is educating people living with or around wildlife on how to act if they ever encounter it and how they have to treat their environment. It starts with simple things, like wildlife-safe dustbins so the animals aren’t attracted to our food and therefore don’t get used to us and won’t do any harm.
Zoos, sanctuaries, aquariums and rehabilitation centres are playing an increasingly important role in conservation and education programmes. These include captive breeding programmes, education programmes and reintroduction/rewilding programmes.
The role of zoo veterinarians in conservation has expanded significantly over the past few decades. It is often assumed that a zoo veterinarian is only responsible for treating a zoo animal when it gets ill and keeping the overall collection of animals healthy.
However, this is only a fraction of the work they do, as they are now involved in the more traditional ex situ conservation projects and education, but also in rehabilitation and reintroduction projects. Of course, not every zoo veterinarian does all of these things, but conservation is becoming an ever-growing part of the job in many institutions.
The veterinarians that are truly invaluable to conservation are those that have dedicated their lives to specialising in subjects essential for the work with endangered species and wildlife in general.
This includes anaesthesiology of wildlife/marine mammals/fish and molluscs (and so on), reproduction physiology of endangered species and options to aid their breeding processes, setting markers to assess the wellbeing of populations in the wild (and individuals in an ex situ setting) and so many other fields that are vital to conservation efforts being successful.
Additional Wildlife Carer sub roles include:
- Aquarist – caring for marine life in aquariums.
- Aviculturist – keeping and breeding birds.
- Conservation Grazing Officer – managing livestock for nature conservation.
Top image: Panther release. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife / Flickr.
Bottom image: A sea otter aquarist weighing a southern sea otter at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Credit: Randy Wilder/Monterey Bay Aquarium via Flickr.
Wildlife Carer context
Wildlife Carer salaries
Wildlife Carer requirements
Typical job titles for Wildlife Carers
Examples of Early Career Wildlife Carer job titles include:
Examples of Mid and Senior Wildlife Carer job titles include:
Wildlife Carer resources
- Working in Conservation as a Veterinarian
- Michelle Proulx | Wolf Conservation & Welfare
- Dionne Slagter | Animal Welfare Manager
- Volunteer to Conservation Manager with Zoo Keeper Sara Fee
- Eve Mansfield | Laos Conservation Trust for Wildlife
- Combining Veterinary Science and Conservation: An Interview with Fabiola Quesada
- Standing tall for Giraffe Conservation
Example Wildlife Carer jobs
To help illustrate Wildlife Carer roles, here are several job descriptions that represent (real) entry level Wildlife Carer jobs. Pay particular attention to the selection criteria (specifications) to learn more about what conservation employers are looking for when they hire Wildlife Carers.
Animal Care Assistant I National Marine Mammal Foundation | San Diego, California, USA
- Perform feeding and administration of food, food supplements, and medications.
- Perform observation of marine mammals
- Assist, as tasked, with basic marine mammal husbandry
- Maintain and clean equipment
- Maintain detail records
- Perform other duties, as assigned
- High school diploma (or equivalent) and
- Experience with animal training, commercial maritime operations, or experience as a marine mammal care custodian
- Must hold a valid driver’s license
- Ability to lift and carry up to 50 lbs.
- Must be able to pass the NMMF swim test for nightwatch project employees
- Maintains high ethical standards during care of animals
- Maintains attention to safety standards and requirements
- Displays a strong commitment to collaboration and teamwork
- Able to demonstrate strong communication and conflict resolution skills
- Able to convey a professional image and positive attitude regarding the NMMF, the U.S. Military, and the nonprofit sector
- Remains flexible and willing to adapt to an evolving work environment and changing weather conditions
- Able to embrace a flexible work schedule to include work hours on holidays, weekends, and after-hours as needed to meet the needs of the position
Wildlife Care Technician | Mass Audubon | Lincoln, Massachusetts, USA
Mass Audubon is looking for an energetic, team-oriented, part-time Wildlife Care Technician to perform the day-to-day care for non-releasable wildlife at Drumlin Farm, with its diverse collection of exhibit and program animals consisting of mammals, birds (including raptors), amphibians, and reptiles. Position responsibilities include feeding and diet preparation, maintaining and cleaning of animal enclosures, behavioral observation, record keeping, exhibit maintenance, and providing environmental enrichment.
Duties & Responsibilities
- Care for wildlife:
- feed approved diets
- clean and disinfect cages and enclosures
- assist with response to medical needs of wildlife and consult with veterinarians as needed
- transport animals
- create and provide daily animal enrichment
- perform lab work as needed
- assist in socializing and conditioning animals for use in programs
- Support compliance with all applicable state and federal permits relating to the possession of program and display animals.
- Train and supervise volunteers and interns.
- Participate in education programs on caring for wildlife in captivity and wildlife rehabilitation, including developing curriculum, leading tours, and answering questions from the public.
- Perform various building, exhibit, and grounds maintenance projects required to support the Wildlife Care unit.
At Mass Audubon, our highest priority is finding the best candidate for the job. Research has shown that people of color and women are less likely to apply for jobs if they don’t believe they meet every one of the qualifications described in a job description. We encourage you to apply, even if you don’t believe you meet every one of our described qualifications or you have a less traditional background. We are looking for applicants with the following qualifications:
- Must be at least 18 years of age.
- High school diploma minimum, preferred college degree in Biology, Zoology, Ecology, Veterinary Technician, Wildlife biology, or a related field.
- Prior animal care experience required, with demonstration of a sincere passion for working with captive wildlife.
- Must be responsible and self-driven with the ability to work independently and as a team player.
- Ability to communicate easily with staff and the public.
- Ability to work in a physically demanding, fast-paced work environment in all types of terrain and in all weather conditions.
- Ability to lift and haul up to 50 lbs.
- Ability to relate to a diverse range of people and exercise cultural competence and inclusion.
- A current rabies vaccination is required.
Husbandry Assistant | Audubon Nature Institute | New Orleans, USA
The Part Time Husbandry Assistant performs daily husbandry tasks at a high level of care and efficiency. Daily tasks include but are not limited to preparing diets, daily cleaning of commissary, cleaning habitats, feeding diets, and guest engagement.
- Follows direct instructions to prepare balanced diets which include fruits, vegetables, dry goods various frozen fishes and rodents for consumption by animals.
- Follows instructions to feed animals according to established procedures.
- Receives and inspects food for freshness, properly stores food items, practices proper food rotation and monitors storage areas, discards food items in compliance with applicable guidelines and procedures.
- Understanding of professional animal care and welfare standards. Prioritizes preventative care and excellence in animal welfare.
- Always prioritizes human and animal safety.
- Ability to work with a team to accomplish established goals.
- Ability to follow direction and act in accordance with all established protocols and procedures. Compliance with all AZA and USDA standards.
- Able to accomplish daily tasks within acceptable/ established timeframe.
- Accurate recordkeeping for short- and long-term monitoring of health, behavior, tracking trends and advancing animal practices. (i.e., ZIMS, TRACKS)
- Participation in professional development as required.
- Ability to communicate effectively and work with a team to provide consistency and advancement in animal care.
- Ability to engage guests in pursuit of education and conservation goals. This includes chats, tours, ambassador animal programs, etc. Able to represent Audubon Nature Institute with professionalism and in support of mission-oriented efforts.
In addition to the above, the Husbandry Assistant will adhere to Audubon Nature Institute’s mission and service commitment.
To deliver on the Audubon mission, the Husbandry Assistant will:
Provide a guest experience of outstanding quality
- Approach all encounters with employees and guests in a friendly, service-oriented manner.
- Maintain the highest standards related to the day-to-day operations of the Husbandry Department.
- Work evening, weekend, holiday hours – required.
- Return telephone messages and e-mails in a timely fashion.
- Handle problems in the workplace, including anticipating, preventing, identifying, and solving problems as necessary.
- Identify and correct minor or routine maintenance problems in a timely manner and report other maintenance needs.
- Interact positively with the public and co-workers.
- Make decisions consistent with Audubon Nature Institute policies and procedures.
- Assist with daily duties in all sections as required.
- Be required to perform facility and exhibit maintenance, including but not limited to, trash and debris removal, floor cleaning, painting, building repair, horticultural duties, etc.
- Establish and maintain effective, efficient and cooperative relationships with employees, senior administration, vendors and customers.
- Maintain high standards of personal appearance and grooming, including proper uniform standards.
- Comply at all times with Audubon Nature Institute standards and regulations to encourage safe and efficient operations.
Weave quality entertainment through the guest experience
- Work within the guidelines and mission of the Audubon Nature Institute.
- Convey information and ideas clearly.
- Conduct behind-the-scenes tours for VIP’s, donors, and Audubon Education programs as scheduled.
- Interact with the public to include on and off grounds educational and media presentations.
- Develop and present educational programs as required.
- Function as an interpreter and represent ANI as a spokesperson.
- Compose animal and exhibit information for publication in the following: Audubon’s website, AZA’s website and other publications.
Operate a financially self-sufficient collection of museums and parks
- Perform basic arithmetic functions and process financial information.
- Assist with the preparation of the departmental operating budget as needed.
- Strive to operate within budget limitations.
- Manage time effectively to eliminate unnecessary overtime.
Enhance the care and survival of wildlife through research and conservation
- Encourage and support Audubon programs.
- Promote, participate in and oversee departmental research and conservation programs
To deliver on the Audubon service promise, the Husbandry Assistant will:
- Make eye contact with every customer encounter, smile at every person, offer friendly phrases and greetings.
- Wear identification badge.
- Go above and beyond to offer assistance to guests in need.
- Assume ownership of potential safety hazards (wipe-up spill, pick up trash).
- Assume ownership of camera-ready standards in assigned exhibit spaces.
- Use proper professional phone etiquette when answering phones on behalf of Audubon.
- Refrain from cell phone use in the public space, maintaining a welcome, approachable appearance.
- Must meet the standards of guest engagement, positive attitude, pleasant tone of voice, willingness to go above and beyond.
- Coach coworkers, interns and volunteers on service expectations, leading by example
- Utilize the power of teamwork to give excellent service. Work with your department and others in pursuit of excellence in customer service.
- Share information vital to the team and ANI success freely and in a timely manner. Identify and correct poor communication situations and habits.
- Know when to involve management to correct problems in a timely fashion, ideally before they impact a guest.
- Acknowledge guests when working in the public space and seize every opportunity to actively engage guests in the wonders of nature.
- Know the answers to questions or seek out the answers in an attempt to exceed guest expectations.
- Ensure work area is free of food, drink, socialization, and personal business.
- Follow Dress Code Policy on clothing and grooming. Be an ambassador of Audubon at all times.
- Keep unpleasant concerns behind closed doors. Keep the guest space a positive environment.
- Minimum of one year of unpaid or paid experience in a zoological facility, public aquarium, or similar facility OR demonstrated and confirmed skill set.
- Understanding/ experience with care of aquatic animals/ systems in a professional setting with demonstrated success. Experience at AZA accredited public facility is preferred.
- Has understanding/ experience with the species under their care or has worked with similar taxa. Has an understanding of natural history, anatomy, behavior, and environmental parameters. Able to identify and recognize health concerns.
High School diploma (or equivalent) and a degree from a recognized college or university are required. College course work in zoology, biology, animal science or related field is preferred; or an equivalent level of work experience and education as determined by the hiring authority.
- Must maintain a valid driver’s license.
- First Aid/ CPR is preferred.
- Proven competency in the application of Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint, and Excel computer programs is required.
- Basic experience with the use and safety requirements of power tools.
- Must have the ability to use mobile devices to facilitate effective communication
- Performing strenuous, fast-paced work both indoors and outdoors.
- Sitting or standing, bending, and stooping per OSHA regulations.
- Heavy work involving lifting no more than 100 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 50 pounds.
- Must be able to swim.
- Maintain regular attendance in compliance with Audubon standards, as required by scheduling which may vary according to the needs of the organization.
- Willingness to work weekends, holidays, irregular hours and be available based on special needs/circumstances on a 24-hour basis.
- Willingness to work long hours between breaks or meals as required.
- Willingness to work outdoors, lift heavy objects, and risk periodic exposure to fairly predictable and controllable hazards associated with wild animals and zoonotic diseases.
- Maintain off-exhibit areas in a clean, organized and safe fashion.
- Willingness to work under and handle stress in an appropriate manner.
- May be exposed to high, medium, or low noise intensity.
- May be exposed to extreme fluctuations in temperatures.
- Willingness to work around and handle raw seafood, including shellfish.
Veterinary Officer | ZSL | London, UK
- A world leading centre of research excellence in conservation science.
- Accelerating the translation and use of research to maximise conservation impact.
- Building capacity in students and conservation professionals through our unique education and training environment.
- Inspiring new and diverse audiences to care about and better understand biodiversity conservation, particularly in the areas of wildlife health, saving threatened species and interactions between people and wildlife.
Main Duties and Responsibilities:
- Assist with the development of the Wildlife Health workplan to establish how our focus on this priority area will translate into action, ensuring our science leads to practice and vice versa.
- Report and publish appropriate clinical research material in journals and textbooks, maintaining and developing a departmental portfolio that supports the wider scientific profile of ZSL
- Ensure continuous best practice veterinary care (including preventive medicine, diagnosis, treatment, disease surveillance and gross postmortem examination) for all animals at ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
- Provide wildlife health input to, and participation in, Science, Conservation and Zoos & Engagement projects that require it, to create synergy and ensure wildlife health factors are considered and addressed.
- Provide input to the planning and design of new animal facilities at ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, as appropriate, to ensure the highest standards of husbandry and care.
- Train students on courses run by ZSL and the RVC, or other collaborative academic institutions, through formal teaching and practical and clinical training, to increase wildlife health capacity internationally.
- Membership of the RCVS essential.
- Specialist training/experience through residency training, fellowship, other certificates (CertAVP) and/or board certification, i.e. ACZM or ECZM (ZHM) is required.
- Proven experience in the veterinary care of zoo and wild animals across a wide range of species essential, ideally with emphasis on taxa held at ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
- Experience in practical training of veterinary techniques and teaching in an academic environment.
- Experience in the use of remote drug-delivery firearms and systems.
- Clear evidence, through long-term affiliations and memberships, of a commitment to and knowledge of, the conservation, health and welfare of wild animals.
- In-depth knowledge of relevant legislation, including that pertaining to zoo licensing, animal welfare, the European Council ‘Balai’ Directive, CITES, animal health, health & safety in zoos, COSHH, firearms and veterinary medicines.
- A record of relevant peer-reviewed publications and presentations.
- A valid UK driving licence and the ability to travel independently between ZSL sites.
- A current UK firearms license, or ability to fulfil the necessary criteria to obtain one.
- Official Veterinarian status (in relevant qualifications), or the ability to become an OV.
Wildlife Care Center Veterinarian | Portland Audubon | Portland, Orgon, USA
Audubon Society of Portland has been a leading voice in conservation for over a century. Through conservation advocacy, environmental education, and wildlife rehabilitation, we promote the understanding, enjoyment, and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats. We are located in a 172-acre wildlife sanctuary in Forest Park, just minutes from downtown Portland. With over 15,000 members and 450 regular volunteers, we are the largest independent chapter of the National Audubon Society in the United States. Additional background regarding our extensive education, advocacy, wildlife rehabilitation, and habitat programs can be found at www.audubonportland.org.
Portland Audubon’s Wildlife Care Center is the largest and busiest rehabilitation facility in the region, treating from 3,000-6,000 injured and orphaned native wild animals each year and is home to a small collection of non-releasable educational animals. Through education and advocacy, the Wildlife Care Center serves as a resource to help our community live more harmoniously with wildlife. The center is operated by 4-5 year-round staff plus seasonal staff, interns, and approximately 200 volunteers.
Audubon Society of Portland has just completed a five-year strategic plan. A core priority is to infuse equity, inclusion, and diversity (EID) into all of the goals and work of the organization. The WCC Veterinarian will play an important role in achieving the organization’s EID goals through the coordination and delivery of high quality visitor engagement and presentations to diverse communities. We recognize that in order to serve diverse communities we must also have diversity represented in our staff. Applicants of color, immigrants, and other underserved persons are encouraged to apply.
The Wildlife Care Center Veterinarian is responsible for oversight of animal medical care provided through the Wildlife Care Center in partnership with the WCC Senior Veterinarian. The WCC Veterinarian reports to the Wildlife Care Center Manager and will work with other veterinary and rehabilitation staff to develop individual animal care plans. This individual also contributes to the creation and implementation of care procedures and policies, the maintenance and care of medical equipment and inventory, and the education of staff, volunteers, and the public. This position is unique in that successful wildlife medicine is multi-disciplinary and requires creativity and teamwork. This position does not have a dedicated veterinary technician, but assistance and support is provided by rehabilitation staff and volunteers.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities
- Manage the medical aspects of the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife, including:
- Intake, examination, and treatment of wildlife
- Maintenance of records and charting of cases
- Minor surgical procedures
- Diagnostics, primarily radiology
- Euthanasia of non-repairable, non-releasable, and non-native animals
- Training and supervision (both direct & indirect) of clinic staff, interns, and volunteers in necessary medical-related activities
- Provide preventative medical care to non-releasable educational animals
- Develop and implement medical treatment protocols & policies
- Oversee medical inventory, including management of controlled substances
- Maintain medical equipment in good working order
- Maintain and build relationships with the local veterinary and animal care community, including existing Portland Audubon partners such as Dove Lewis Emergency Veterinary Hospital
- Maintain a safe, professional working environment at all time
- Provide information to the general public regarding matters of injured, diseased, and orphaned wildlife, both formally and informally
- Other duties as assigned
- Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) or equivalent degree from an AVMA accredited institution
- Experience in the medical care of a broad range of species, including birds, mammals, and herptiles
- Experience working with wild animals, ideally in a wildlife rehabilitation context
- Understanding of natural history and its application to animal husbandry and medical care
- Demonstrated collaborative, team-based approach to working with staff and volunteers
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Ability to effectively present information and respond to questions in a variety of forums (eg. internal trainings, public presentations)
- Demonstrable commitment to and application of diversity, equity, and inclusion principles
- Proficiency with technology, including electronic medical recordkeeping
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