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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


In the United States alone, there are >5,000 state-licensed wildlife rehabilitators in addition to a multitude of other wildlife caregivers across rehabilitation and sanctuary settings. Wildlife rehabilitation and sanctuary care provide a unique lens from which to explore human–wildlife interactions. We examined the experiences of wildlife caregivers within a continuum of acute veterinary services, community-based rehabilitation, and sanctuary care to gain insight into wildlife caregiving and its implications for human–wildlife coexistence. Between 2016 and 2018, we completed in-depth interviews with 15 wildlife caretakers in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire, USA. In addition to the interviews, we observed 197 unique human–animal interactions during wildlife care. The overarching paradigm that emerged from our research was what we refer to as “caring for the circle of life.” Embraced within this paradigm were 5 themes: (1) entering and persevering in the circle of care; (2) honoring natural processes; (3) knowing and being known by the wild creature; (4) extending the circle of care; and (5) fulfillment. Wildlife rehabilitation and sanctuary care, in addition to providing medical assistance to animals in need, advance knowledge about individual species and contributes to increased public awareness regarding wildlife conservation and human–wildlife coexistence.