healing wildlife & our environment

Have you found an injured or orphaned wild animal? 
 Please visit our wildlife emergencies page for guidance.

Otherwise, read on to learn more about the Sanctuary's wildlife rehabilitation program!

Wildlife help

what's One Health?

Put simply, One Health is a framework that recognizes how human health is closely connected to both environmental and animal health. In other words,  successfully keeping us all healthy at the local, national, and global level requires folks from each of these sectors to work closely together.

How exactly do we rehabilitate wildlife?

Wildlife rehabilitation is truly a "don't try this at home, folks!" field. Working with wild animals is quite different than working with domestic animals, requiring specialized diets, enclosures, socialization, enrichment, and protective gear.

We do not have a veterinarian on-site, so the Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary specializes in caring for clinically healthy orphaned wildlife - a job we take very seriously! We work to understand the natural history of every species we work with so we can craft a rehabilitative environment that matches the care they'd receive from their wild parents to the best of our ability as humans. That necessitates a lot of hard work, whether we're feeding baby birds every 30 minutes from sunrise to sunset or setting up a naturalistic outdoor enclosure for fox kits in the 95° Virginia heat. The Sanctuary's team takes pride in going above and beyond when it comes to setting up our patients for post-release success!

Part of preparing our  patients for release is, well, keeping them wild. A wild animal in captive care is inherently a stressed animal, and we take great care to treat our patients with the professional attention they deserve without unnecessarily contributing to their stress. We never speak to our patients, cuddle them, spend unnecessary time with them, or provide any kind of environment that could lead a wildlife patient to become "habituated." A habituated animal is often a non-releasable animal.

All of this is to say: the rehabilitation team at RWS is highly trained and possesses all of the necessary permits and skills to provide such uniquely challenging care to our patients.  

A conservation tool that operates on the individual patient but is guided by ecosystem dynamics, environmental regulation, and One Health principles.

Providing professional care to injured and orphaned wild animals using  species-specific, natural history-informed techniques that ensure the best possible outcome for each patient.

What is wildlife rehabilitation?

One Health professionals include wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians, physicians, epidemiologists, public health policymakers, ecologists, wildlife biologists, fish and game department officials, and so many more! By providing safe and professional care to wild animals, educating the public, training student interns and early-career conservationists, and lending our voice to environmental policy and research efforts, the Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary strives to champion One Health principles and improve our world. 



Wildlife rehab is Tough,
but we are proud of our impact!





animals helped since our founding in 2004.

wildlife patients
admitted every year.

different native species cared for each year.

average overall release rate annually - higher than average for wildlife rehabilitation! 

Virtual or In-Person Rescue

Fielding wildlife crisis calls and determining if and when a wild animal needs professional care.

First exam and stabilizing care, then determining what level and kind of care a new patient needs.

Providing oral or subcutaneous fluids, and then refeeding appropriate nutrition, are some of the first steps in getting a patient back on their feet (or paws). 



  1. Assessment
  2. Intake
  3. Triage
  4. Rehydration
  5. Refeeding/formula
  6. Conspecific matching
  7. Weaning onto solids
  8. Acclimation
  9. Unsupervised outdoor pre-release caging
  10. Wellness checks + sensory enrichment
  11. Prey testing
  12. Release!

The patient's treatment journey

  1. Assessment
        2.  Intake
        3.  Triage
        4.  Rehydration
        5.  Refeeding/formula
        6.  Conspecific matching
        7.  Weaning onto solids
        8.  Acclimation
        9.  Unsupervised outdoor                  pre-release caging


        10.  Wellness checks +                       sensory enrichment
        11.   Prey testing
        12.   Release!


Matching lone orphans with a same-species "littermate" is essential for proper socialization.


Introduced to smaller enclosures during the day to adjust to weather & environment.





Graduation to largest enclosures, deep in the woods at the Sanctuary.

Our staff continues to monitor health and development, incorporating enrichment items that match each patient's natural history.


Necessary only for our obligate predator patients, like raptors and red foxes. Once they pass, they're ready for...




The best part of our work! For many patients, we perform a "soft release" where we continue providing access to food and shelter for 1-2 weeks post-release. This eases our patients back to the wild, but they often take off quickly! 



Indoor Nursery Care

Inside our 3,000 sqft rehabilitation facility, built specifically for wildlife care.

"Field Trips"

Outdoor Care

In one of our 50 outdoor enclosures, spread generously throughout our rural property.


The rehab process 
might only take 3 weeks for some species, like white-footed mice or Carolina Wrens. For other species, like Barn Owls or red foxes, this process takes over six months! 


WHo we serve: A map of 2023's patient admissions



While the vast majority of our patients come from central Virginia, we receive wild animals in need from all over the state!

See  our rehabilitation program in action!


Please note that we are closed to the public in order to maintain a natural setting for our wildlife patients. We do offer the ability to schedule a tour or small group viewing, but these must be scheduled in advance. Please email us at if you are interested in scheduling a tour. We look forward to sharing RWS with you!
Due to a high volume of requests, we are unable to schedule educational programs until the beginning of fall 2024.


5450 Wheelers Cove Rd.
Shipman, VA 22971

Our phone number should be used for wildlife emergencies. If you have other general inquiries, we would appreciate you contacting us via email or the contact us form so we can keep our phone line open for wildlife in need. Thank you!          

We are open 365 days per year. We accept new patients between 9AM-4PM. Call first, please!

Thank you

We will answer your message as soon as possible.

2024 © Copyright Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary

Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. EIN 51-0498181.
Thank you for supporting our mission to help native wildlife in Virginia and beyond.