Employment, Internships, and Volunteering at RWS

Summer 2023 Internship
Application Period Closed February 17th, 2023

The Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary (RWS) internship program is an eight-week, paid position. These internships provide an incredible introduction to animal care and nonprofit work: our interns are key members of our summer team, participating in critical elements of the Sanctuary’s mission. We seek dedicated individuals who are passionate about wildlife, comfortable with animals, and ready to work hard for a good cause.
There are three internships available for Summer 2023. Internships are typically 8 hours per day, 5 days per week (including weekends) for 8 weeks. Compensation is $10/hour, with maximum pay of $3,200 for the 8-week time period. Housing is provided at no cost. Approximate internship dates for Summer 2023 will be May 15 - July 10, May 29 - July 24, and June 12 - August 7. Please let us know in your application if any of these internship periods would not work for you.

Applicant Requirements:
- Applicants must be 18 years or older.
- Applicants must be up to date on their tetanus vaccination.
- Applicants must complete the rabies vaccination sequence prior to the start of the position. Funding is available for this important vaccination if your health insurance will not cover it. 
- Applicants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including a booster shot, and be willing to wear a mask when required. We mask and wear PPE when handling all patients. 
- Applicants must have access to a car for transporting animals (and yourself) to the Sanctuary.

What does an internship at a wildlife rehabilitation facility entail?
Animal Care
- Provide excellent rehabilitative care to all animals at the facility.
- Daily cleaning and feeding of all animals housed at the facility, including our rehabilitation patients and our education ambassador animals.
- Monitor patient health, attitude, weight, appetite, etc., and maintain written records of each animal’s progress.
- Assist with restraint, examination, diagnostic procedures and treatment of animals, as needed.
- Admit patients and complete associated records. Examine and initiate first aid to patients or new arrivals.
- Arrange transport of incoming animals to the Sanctuary and transport of severely injured animals to the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
- Clean and prep outdoor enclosures in a variety of conditions, including designing fresh enrichment for different species in care. 
- Maintain high standards of cleanliness in nurseries, kitchen, laundry room, and animal housing areas.
- Prepare specialized meals for a variety of species.
Other Duties
- Answer the phone and respond to rehabilitation related questions from the public when needed.
- Assist in collecting photographs of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds for our website, social media accounts, newsletter, and presentations.
- Help with fundraising and/or outreach events, when necessary.
- Other duties, responsibilities, and special projects, as requested.

What should I expect to gain from my internship at RWS?
- Hands-on learning and experience with wildlife, with species ranging from field mice to foxes and songbirds to large raptors (and don’t forget reptiles!).
- A greater appreciation for the natural history of Virginian wildlife and their role in the environment.
- Time management and multitasking skills. You will learn how to efficiently approach a large workload that is time-sensitive in a fun and interesting environment.
- Experience with humans! You will be working with a small team of rehabilitators as well as working frequently with the public by intaking animals and answering phone calls throughout your internship.
- How to handle hard situations, like the death of a patient or difficult public relations.
- Appreciation for the value of teamwork and the importance of curiosity.
- An opportunity to learn whether or not you want to pursue wildlife rehabilitation or any other animal care/conservation field.

What shouldn't I expect from my internship at RWS? 
- Making copies, filing paperwork, or other administrative tasks.
- A sedentary job. Our rehabbers, volunteers, and interns average 20K steps daily!
- Staying clean. We work largely outdoors in hot, humid conditions, and a lot of the most important tasks (like cleaning outdoor enclosures) can get pretty messy. We leave work every day pretty seriously ready for a shower!

Compensation: In an attempt to broaden the scope of individuals who may participate in our internships, we are happy to offer a paid internship program thanks to grant funding. Compensation is $10/hour with no overtime pay available, although interns do need to work some overtime occasionally.
Housing: We provide housing, but the housing is not on the property of the sanctuary. Thus, it will be necessary for you to have access to a car for the duration of your internship.
Please let us know in your application if you have an up-to-date rabies vaccination. If not, we pay for our summer interns to receive rabies vaccinations prior to their internship.

To Apply:
If you're interested in joining the RWS team this summer, please send your resume and a cover letter (focusing on your experience and/or passion for wildlife or nature) to by February 17th, 2023. We can't wait to hear from you!

What Past RWS Interns Have to Say: 
“Being an intern at RWS was exactly what I wanted for an entry into wildlife rehab. At no point did I feel like just ‘the intern.’ This staff is amazing at making everyone feel equal and part of the team. My experience was very hands-on, and I am forever thankful for my time spent there. “ - Kris, 2022 intern 

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time working at Rockfish. It was a perfect amount of time for an internship right out of college to figure out what I am interested in for my career. I learned so much about wildlife rehab. I also acquired communication skills as well as lots of problem solving skills. This is a really hands-on position, and the staff wants you to learn as much as possible during this time. They are always willing to let you get your hands in on a project. This job is really fulfilling, and you can feel good about the work you are doing everyday! A huge plus for me was the accepting and fun work environment fostered by the staff there! Overall, such a great learning experience for my future career.” - Maddie, 2022 intern 

“Rockfish is amazing. This organization, and the wonderful staff, have taught me so much about wildlife care and the functions of a non-profit organization. RWS has ultimately shaped my educational and professional life into what it is today, and for that, I am forever grateful.” - Jamie, 2018 and 2019 intern, staff in 2021

A PhD Candidate in literature. A photographer. A landscaper. What do these diverse people have in common? All of them volunteer their time and expertise for Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary. Without their incredible generosity–and that of dozens of others–Rockfish would be unable to function.

Here are some of the things that volunteers do at the Sanctuary:

• Build enclosures
• Feed baby animals
• Transport animals to and from the Sanctuary
• Go shopping for the Sanctuary’s food needs
• Fund raise
• Design educational presentations
• Provide marketing expertise
• And so much more!

Our volunteers are the reason we can offer quality educational programming and animal care in our area. If you choose to join us, we can promise a deeply rewarding experience. We’d love to find out how we can make the most of your skills and contributions, and how you would best fit with Rockfish’s needs. Please call (434-263-4954) or e-mail ( to find out how you can help!

Note: animal care volunteers are required to obtain a state permit to rehabilitate wildlife. Our rehabbers will be happy to guide you through this process, but no non-permitted person will be able to handle wildlife.

There are lots of ways that you can help the Sanctuary’s work, even if you don’t have the money to donate today, or the time to be a volunteer or an intern. Here are a few things that keep us going!

Serve as a Board Member
Interested in guiding RWS further by being on our board?
Email your resume to

Donate Supplies
Our animals always need supplies to keep them healthy, fed, and warm. We need:
• LOTS of paper towels & plain Kleenex​​​​​​​
• Bales of hay
• Blue pads (aka, “pee pee” pads, available at pet stores and other retailers)
• Dawn Dish Soap
• Gas cards for transporters
• Handwarmers to provide warmth to animals in transport
• Gift cards to grocery stores for fresh veggies and fruits for RWS patients
• Gift cards to area pet stores and wild bird seed suppliers
• Gift cards to Southern States

Shop or Donate an Item at the Greene House Antique Shops
The Sanctuary’s super volunteer, Candace Goodyear, has created a special space at the Greene House Antique Shops in Ruckersville to help support the sanctuary. You can help the Sanctuary by buying an item or donating one to the Rockfish shop. All proceeds benefit the Sanctuary!
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