What it means to be a volunteer!

Volunteering with ORC is an incredibly important job. We have a very small staff and therefore rely heavily on the efforts of our volunteers. Being a volunteer means you are not only a representative of the Ojai Raptor Center but you are a steward of our causes. Our primary cause is to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured, orphaned or sick birds of prey or other wildlife in distress, our secondary goal is to help educate the public on raptors and our shared environment.  We are extremely appreciative to all those who donate their time to help promote these causes as we grow as an organization. We hope you will take your volunteer time with ORC seriously and carefully read through the volunteer handbook, Volunteer Resources site and website as a whole- the FAQ page is also a great resource. Thank you so much!


 1. Volunteers should strive to achieve high stan­dards of animal care through knowledge and an understanding of the field.  Con­tinuing efforts must be made to learn about current rehabili­ta­tion information, methods, and regulations as well as the species we work with.

 2. Volunteers attitudes should be responsible, conscien­tious, and dedicated:  continu­ously working toward improving the quality of care given to wild animals undergoing rehabilitation.

3. Volunteers must abide by local, state, and federal laws concerning wildlife and wildlife rehabilitation.

 4. Volunteers should practice good and safe work habits and condi­tions, abiding by current health and safety practices, as well as following protocols put forth by supervisors and the director.

 5. Volunteers should acknowledge their limitations or lack of understanding and approach their supervisor when they are unsure about something.

 6. As a means of preventing further wildlife loss and abuse, volunteers should encour­age community support and involvement through their own education and spreading the word.

 7. Volunteers must respect other volunteers, sharing skills and knowledge with each other, and working toward a common goal: a respon­sible concern for wildlife and the welfare of the environ­ment in which they live. Gossiping/talking badly/aggressively about or to other volunteers will not be tolerated.

 8. A volunteer should realize that a non-releasable animal, inappro­priate for education, foster-parenting or captive breeding, has a right to euthanasia. Volunteers must not challenge supervisors in decisions regarding euthanasia.

 9. Volunteers should strive to maintain all animals in a wild condition and release them as soon as appropriate.

10. Volunteers must respect the direction given by their supervisors. Challenging, disobeying or disregarding supervisor instruction can lead to termination of volunteer status. This includes arriving on time for volunteer shifts as well as using the online calendar as instructed.

11. Smoking is prohibited at the Ojai Raptor Center. Volunteers must not come to Ojai Raptor Center under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

12. All photos taken at ORC must be approved by a supervisor prior to posting on any public forum or social media site.

13. Dogs are not allowed anywhere on ORC campus.

 With acknowledgment and thanks to International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, Oregon Wildlife Rehabilitation Association, and Umpqua Wildlife Rescue for various drafts of this code.

 Who We Are and What We Do

This section is included to help volunteers clearly understand what ORC is and how to explain our work to the public. 

First and foremost we are a wildlife rehabilitation center. We are taking in and triaging sick, injured, or orphaned wild animals. We specialize in birds of prey. We exist because we want to give every bird or animal that comes through the doors, the absolute best possible chance of making a full recovery and being re-released into the wild. We are not a bird sanctuary, or zoo. We are not open to the public for several reasons. The main reason is because we want to minimize the contact our wild bird patients have with people. During nesting season we don't want baby birds to become comfortable with people and during the rest of the year- for the injured adult birds- being around/seeing/and hearing people causes unnecessary stress that prolongs the rehabilitation process.

Secondly we are educators. As a part of our permits from the government- we are required to use our resident education birds in education programs. These programs serve to teach people about raptors and our shared environment, and hopefully create a wonderful and lasting memory on how and why we should try and protect them. 

Your supervisors and director are trained wildlife rehabilitators, they have over 40 years experience between them. They have been trained by other wildlife rehabilitators as well as wildlife veterinarians. They are required to continue their education in this field. They are in charge of determining the best concourse of care for each bird or animal admitted to the Ojai Raptor Center as well as the health and safety of the resident education raptors. The majority of the time, the work consists of taking in compromised raptors. Most of them are admitted because of some sort of human cause. Rehabilitation usually consists of a certain amount of time in the hospital before getting put into intermediary housing or put into one of the big flights. We will not release birds unless we know they are flying and hunting efficiently, and will be able to survive in the wild with the hope they will go one to be successful breeders. The amount of time they will be at the center totally depends on the nature of their injury. Some cases will take much longer than others. During nesting season the center is extremely busy because of the higher number of intakes and the increased amount of care each bird requires. Baby birds require a lot more care than injured adults so nesting season is our busiest, but most rewarding time of year because the percentage of birds we are able to release is much higher. Most baby birds come in as uninjured orphans so it is our job to make sure they learn to fly and hunt properly before getting released. During the rehabilitation process, ask as many questions as you have. Volunteers will have an up close vantage point of how wildlife rehabilitation works, and the more you know the better steward you will be for educating the public. 

Death and Euthanasia*

Part of the supervisors and director's role at the center is to determine the aforementioned best concourse of treatment for each bird or animal.  The birds we receive are admitted because they have a problem. Many of them have been hit by cars, electrocuted, poisoned, shot, have head trauma, eye issues and broken legs or wings. These traumatic injuries are often accompanied by secondary problems like hypothermia, blood loss, shock, starvation and dehydration. Despite giving the best care that we can provide, birds do and will die while in our care. Birds will also be admitted with injuries that are so severe that their survival rate is extremely low, or they have an injury that despite being non-life threatening, will not allow them to be released back into the wild. In these situations we will sometimes choose to humanely euthanize. It is never an easy decision but in cases where we do choose to euthanize, we feel it is the best form of "treatment" because it ends the pain and suffering for that bird. We also adhere to USFWS law that states: You must euthanize any bird that cannot feed itself, perch upright, or ambulate without inflicting additional injuries to itself where medical and/or rehabilitative care will not reverse such conditions. You must euthanize any bird that is completely blind, and any bird that has sustained injuries that would require amputation of a leg, a foot, or a wing at the elbow or above (humero-ulnar joint). When possible we will try and place healthy but non-releasable birds into other education programs. As a volunteer you will never be asked to euthanize a bird, be a part of the decision making process or witness euthanasia if you are not comfortable with it.  

Questions from the public- 

As volunteers for ORC you will probably get asked about us, whether it's a friend or family member who knows what you are up to, or if you are assisting in a public event with us. *It's very important that if you get a question you don't know the answer to- don't make something up! It's tempting to just say something that sounds good or half right, but in the long run it is so much better to say that you don't know!