Rescue. Rehabilitate. Release

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Wildlife Rehabilitation Training Classes

Want to get started in wildlife rehabilitation or need continuing education credits? We offer a wide range of classes from online to onsite

Become a Member

Join WRI and make a difference in the lives of wildlife. Members are eligible for board and committee positions or can help out at the Center once a month.

The Center

View the progress of the Wildlife Response and Rehabilitation Center located in Virginia Beach.

Volunteer Opportunities

Want To make a difference helping wildlife? We have many volunteer opportunities for skill levels from administrative to manual labor, from special events to once a month tasks. If you do not see one that fits your needs, let us know and we can create an opportunity.

Questions about Wildlife?

We offer information about local wildlife and initial screenings, as well as rescue and transport tips.

WRI Hotline

Need Wildlife Assistance? Give us a Call at 757-543-7000


Checkout the items we need to help keep the rehabilitation efforts moving. Every little bit counts!

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Wildlife Response, Inc. is a distinctive 501c3 volunteer organization devoted solely to the care of orphaned, injured, and displaced native wildlife. We are dedicated to increasing awareness of wildlife rehabilitation to the public. Our organization depends primarily upon the private donations for its programs and services.  

The Wildlife Response and Rehabilitation Center will be a centrally located facility where citizens, animal control officers and other agencies can drop off wildlife. In addition, the Center will provide a redistribution center for animals to be triaged, and then sent to permitted-based wildlife rehabilitators for care. The Center is expected to open in 2018.


Eastern Cottontail

(Silvilagus Floridanus)

Eastern CottontailThe eastern cottontail is the most widely spread species in the United States. They are found everywhere east of the Rocky Mountains. The word “sylvilagus means “wood hare”. Their range extends from Canada to Central America. Cottontails are found in diverse habitats, including woodlands, fields, swamps, farmlands, hedge, prairies and urban yards. In Native American Indian legends, the rabbit is the trickster hero of the southwest tribes. The rabbit, in ancient Indian legends, possessed supernatural powers.

The cottontails home is called a form. It is a depression made by the rabbit by digging out or stomping down an oval shape. They do not maintain territories. Home ranges may overlap. The range of an adult male maybe 2 to 3 acres. The female’s territory is approximately 1 acre. The female is called a doe. She will line a form with her chest hair and grass when it is time to have her kits.

Cottontails are nocturnal. They rest in their form during the day. Their favorite foraging times are pre-dawn, early morning, pre-dusk and twilight. They are herbivores (plant eaters). They will eat grasses, sedges, leaves, flowers, stems, buds, berries and bark. During the winter months they will eat stems of goldenrod, dogwood, berries and tree bark. Cottontails also practice coprophagy, eating of their feces. Their digestive system requires a continuous flow of nutrition and roughage to remain healthy. Their metabolism is 3 times faster than a cat or dog. They do not require much water due to the vegetation they consume and the dew on the vegetation in the early morning hours.

Eastern CottontailCottontails are normally very timid, however, they will fiercely defend their kits.  Adult cottontails are 14 to 16 inches long and weigh about 3 pounds. They are capable of jumping 8 feet. The average life span is 2 years. Only 25% of cottontails survive their first year. If all of the doe’s brood survived and reproduced, at the end of 5 years, there would be 2.5 billion rabbits. In an area where there is a high number of predators, 85% of the rabbit population will die in one year. Mortality is also affected by weather. The form may be flooded during a storm and the may result in the death of an entire litter.

Rabbits sexually mature at 4 to 6 months. A doe may have 3 to 4 litters per year. The average litter size is 3 to 6. The doe returns to the nest twice a day to feed her kits. She will lay over the form and the kits will rise up to nurse. They lay on their backs and fill their stomachs quickly. Kits are born blind and hairless but in a short 3 weeks they will be weaned and eating on their own. By 4 weeks of age the kits will leave the nest for good.

Cottontails are a prey species. They are born knowing what they should do. When startled they will remain motionless for long periods of time or they will flee rapidly. (reprinted with permission from Wild at Heart)

Local Wildlife

Coming Soon

Found Injured or Orphaned Wildlife

If the animal is healthy, and renesting is an option; refer to the section on “Renesting and Reuniting” Procedures. If it is in a position where it cannot be safely renested or reunited with its parent, it will need to come into care. Please remember that baby animals and birds are fragile and usually do not bite. However, you should always use caution. Use gloves and/or a small towel and gently pick up the baby. They can be placed in a small box lined with a towel or soft paper towels or tissue. Cover the box so the baby doesn’t escape, and give no food or water before transporting to the rehabilitator.

In order to minimize contact between you and a potentially dangerous adult animal, wear thick gloves and use a heavier towel to cover it and place it in a dog or cat crate. In the case of most birds, cardboard boxes may be used safely. Use good judgment and exercise extreme caution as the animal or bird does not realize they are trying to help. Remember, any injured adult could potentially be caring for young, especially if it is a female. Stay alert for possible babies in the area. Do not to give food or water. The confined animal can now be transported to a licensed rehabilitator.

Warming Guidelines 
A quick message about warming animals and birds for transportation. Many birds and mammals are found stunned, hit by vehicles, etc. These animals will most likely be losing body heat due to shock. During the spring and summer, young animals are prone to hypothermia because they are no longer in their nest or with siblings to share body heat. There are several methods for warming animals:
a heating pad set on low can be placed below half of the container holding the animal
plastic soda bottles or doubled zip lock baggies filled with warm water can be wrapped in cloth or placed inside socks and placed near the animal
an old sock filled with about one cup of raw, uncooked rice and heated in the microwave for 45-60 seconds will maintain heat for a hour or two

Please be careful not to overheat the animal. Wrap the source of heat in layers of cloth or towel until the temperature feels safe enough to place beside the animal. If they have a small bird or baby mammal, turn it every 15 minutes so his body warms evenly while they transport it to a WRI licensed rehabilitator.  Also note: Raptors do not require heat unless they are hypothermic! Raptors will quickly overheat due to stress, and some birds such as Coopers Hawks and Sharp Shinned Hawks may become hyperthermic (overheated) and die on the short drive to the rehabilitator.

Why we ask you to transport 

  • It can take many hours to find a transporter and the animal you have found needs helps ASAP
  • If you do not have a vehicle, please ask a neighbor, friend, or family member to help
  • If you are at work, can you transport the animal during lunch or after work, or find a coworker who may be willing to help?
  • If absolutely cannot transport the animal you MUST at least contain the animal under a basket, in a yard, etc.


  • Aspiration of food or fluid can cause pneumonia
  • Dehydrated animals will die if given food before being rehydrated
  • Birds must be identified to determine proper diet
  • The wrong diet or baby formula can be very harmful

Why can’t you raise or keep wildlife

  • Young animals and birds require a large amount of care. Birds may need feedings every 10- 15 minutes, and mammals may need 2 – 4 hours feedings around the clock.
  • Wild animals do not make good pets. At maturity, most will become aggressive
  • Proper nutrition is essential for the animal’s survival
  • Wildlife can carry illnesses that can be transferred to humans and pets
  • It is illegal in the state of Virginia to hold wildlife without proper permits

Bird Specific

Bird is still flying
It is almost impossible to catch a flying bird. It may be caught if it is weak, has a fractured wing, or head injury. You  may attempt to catch it by using a crab or fish net, towel, or sheet.  Alternative nets can be made out of a pillowcase with wire coat hanger run through the hem of the case then bent into a circle. The “net” can then be attached to a broom handle with duct tape or string wrapped around the wire to the handle.  Sick or injured birds may be caught by throwing a towel on top of it. You  can then scoop the bird and towel together and placing both into a box.

Birds and squirrels trapped in a house
All birds (except owls) and squirrels will most always escape into the light. If you have a bird or squirrel in your home, please know that getting it out of your home is a simple procedure.

  • Try to confine the bird or squirrel to one room. Shut the doors to the rest of the house or block open areas with sheets
  • If it is injured, wait an hour for it to calm down. You can then attempt to catch it using a net or towel then place the bird or animal in a box, dog, or cat crate
  • If it is uninjured turn off lights in room, open one window or door to the outside in the room the animal is contained and the bird or squirrel should escape
  • Remember to keep pets and people out of room
  • Remember- If the bird or squirrel is injured it should be captured and taken to a rehabilitator

Birds trapped in stores or warehouses
WRI receives calls from stores and warehouses about birds that become trapped in their facilities. It is sometimes very difficult to get a bird out of a warehouse - but the same basic principals apply as if it were in a home.

If the bird is a raptor, please call our Hotline (757.543.7000) for help.

Birds and mammals trapped in chimneys
Mammals and birds will occasionally be trapped in chimneys. You can try to use a rope placed in one of the corners of the chimney to help the animal climb out. In most cases, however, the animal will have to be allowed to get into the fireplace before it can be helped out of the home. Close the screen or glass in front of the fireplace. If nothing is in front of it, place a piece of plywood or hang a sheet in front of it. Open the flue and allow the animal into the fireplace. Use the  instructions for “Birds and Squirrels Trapped in a House”.

If the animal is a raccoon, duck, or other large animal, please call our Hotline for help.

Bird attacking window
Birds usually attack windows for a few reasons:

They are territorial. Birds during pre-breeding and breeding season stake out “territories”, an area that the pair of birds will not allow others of their species to live. These birds may see their own reflection and mistake it for a rival bird. They will strike out at reflections in mirrors, windows, parked cars, etc. The way to correct this problem is to remove the reflection.  In windows, this can be accomplished by closing curtains, placing paper on the outside of the window (as long as it’s not going to rain in the next few days), or applying window clings or frosting the window.  Yellow Highlighter has also been proven to work. With cars, you  should move the car for a few days or cover it with a car cover
They see a continuation of the trees and bushes near the window. Again, closing curtains, placing paper on the outside of the window (as long as it’s not going to rain in the next few days), or applying window clings or frosting, or marking the window with yellow highlighter will help break up the appearance of bushes and trees. Another helpful hint would be to remove some of the limbs and bushes near the window.
The bird is being chased. Birds being chased by predators, particularly hawks such as Coopers and Sharp Shinned hawks, will fly head long into a window. Occasionally, the hawk will follow behind the prey, and hit the same window.  If the bird has hit a window, please pick it up and call our Hotline. They often have concussions or other injuries. Birds that hit windows should not be released until they receive medical attention.

Oiled or sticky material on wildlife
Please call our Hotline for help

Birds with eye problems
House finches and sparrows are sometimes seen with swollen eyes. These birds have a condition called conjunctivitis. The condition starts as draining, crusty eyes quickly incapacitates the bird by basically making it unable to see. This is a highly contagious disease to other sparrows and finches. Please contain the bird and call our Hotline (757.543.7000). You will need to transport the bird to a rehabilitator for care.  Also, please do the following:  take down your feeders, clean them with the following procedures:

  • Take down feeder and throw remaining seed away in their trash can
  • Clean up any seed that's on the ground
  • Use a 1 part bleach to 30 parts water solution to clean the entire feeder
  • Let the feeder air dry
  • Use the remaining bleach solution on the ground under the feeder to help disinfect the area
  • Repeat the cleaning every day for several weeks to minimize the spread of the disease



Education & Outreach

WRI promotes community education as well as wildlife rehabilitation education in Southeastern Virginia. We are dedicated to the preservation of wildlife through rehabilitation and education. It is essential for the public to understand the sensitive balance of human and non-human populations, the affect we have on the natural environment, and the best ways in which we can coexist.

Community Education

WRI puts the WILD in wildlife education! Our knowledgeable, professional, and passionate staff will entertain and educate through close encounters with real live animals! Nothing has a greater impact than the sight of a Great Horned owl or Red-tailed Hawk just feet away! WRI presents exciting and educational programs at nearly any venue and for any age group. Sample organizations include: school groups, community associations/civic leagues, senior facilities, etc.

Wildlife Rehabilitator Education

WRI offers a wide range of training class in-person and online. Depending upon your permit needs, we have licensed volunteers ready to help you learn more about becoming a wildlife rehabilitator or maintaining your license. Checkout our self-pace learning classes.

Community Outreach

Community outreach programs are offered by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and are available year round. We have four education ambassador animals that we can use to educate the community about wildlife. Photos can also be taken with the animals. The Program is exciting, humorous and very educational. The program usually lasts about 1 hour.

We provide programming for all ages including community associations, schools, scouts, churches, daycares, libraries, senior groups, and more. Reservations need to be made at least 4 weeks in advance. There is no charge.

To schedule a presentation or exhibit, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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