Veterinary Externship

This program is designed to provide veterinary students and international veterinarians with practical experience in aspects of wild animal handling, medical management, and husbandry.

Throughout the three-to-twelve week veterinary externship, externs will receive instruction and hands-on experience in anatomy, physical restraint, anesthesia, radiography, laboratory analysis, emergency triage, therapeutics, nutrition, wound management, surgery, and necropsy procedures. This externship emphasizes hands-on experience mentored by qualified wildlife veterinarians. This is a challenging program and we expect hard work and dedication from our students. In return, the Center promises to introduce externs to many aspects of clinical wildlife and conservation medicine in a friendly and professional teaching environment.

The veterinary extern must be a fourth/fifth-year student registered in a veterinary medicine degree program or a foreign veterinarian and is expected to achieve the following goals:

  • Be able to identify the common wildlife species of Virginia and have some understanding of their natural history.
  • Know the techniques used to restrain wild animals, and perform physical restraint of wild reptiles, birds, and mammals.
  • Perform physical examinations, basic clinical techniques (such as venipuncture), and treatment of wild reptiles, birds, and mammals.
  • Be able to perform and interpret basic diagnostic procedures such as hematology and radiography of reptiles, birds, and mammals.
  • Perform both inhalation and, if appropriate, injectable anesthesia on wild reptiles, birds, and mammals.
  • Perform surgical procedures such as wound repair on appropriate cases.
  • Know the humane methods of euthanasia used in wildlife species.
  • Perform gross necropsies on wild reptiles, birds, and mammals.
  • Have a basic knowledge of the important diseases of North American wildlife, especially wildlife zoonoses.
  • Understand the medical and ethical issues regarding the treatment, rehabilitation, and conservation of wildlife.
  • Understand the concept of conservation medicine, and the role the Wildlife Center can play in wildlife disease monitoring, ecosystem health, conservation, and public education.

If requested, the Center will provide housing for a nominal cost ($75/week; no pets allowed). A student vehicle is available for travel to and from the Center and in-town errands if required. Students are supervised by four staff veterinarians, three technicians, and three wildlife rehabilitation staff during their stay.

Externs are selected on a first-come, first-serve basis and available positions often fill up 12 months in advance. Please note that pre-exposure rabies vaccination is required in order to be accepted for an externship.

Application Process

Complete applications have five components, which can be sent to

When all components are received, we will confirm availability and proposed dates for the externship. Final confirmation will occur after we receive a $75 deposit to hold the externship dates. When accepted into the program, students will be sent a Veterinary Externship manual in Wildlife and Conservation Medicine.  

Suggested reading

1) Proceedings of the 1995 AAZV/WDA/AAWV Joint Annual Conference, East Lansing, Michigan. (Has many good examples of using wildlife as indicators of ecosystem health.)
2) Altman R. Clubb S. et al (eds). 1997. Avian Medicine and Surgery. W. B. Saunders.
3) Friend M, and Franson J. 1999. Field Manual of Wildlife Diseases: General Field Procedures and Diseases of Birds. US Geological Survey. (This book can be downloaded from
4) Williams ES, Barker IK. 2001. Infectious Diseases of Wild Mammals, 3rd Ed. Blackwell Publishing.
5) Samuel WM, Pybus MJ, Kocan AA. 2001. Parasitic Disease of Wild Mammals, 2nd Ed. Blackwell Publishing.
6) Aguirre AA, Ostfeld RS, Daszak P. 2012. New Directions in Conservation Medicine: Applied Cases of Ecological Health. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
7) Wobeser GA. 2006. Essentials of Disease in Wild Animals. Blackwell Publishing.
8) Thomas NJ, Hunter DB, Atkinson CT. 2007. Infectious Diseases of Wild Birds. Blackwell Publishing.
9) Wobeser GA. 2007. Disease in Wild Animals: Investigation and Management, 2nd Ed. Springer
10) Davidson W. 2006. Field Manual of Wildlife Diseases in the Southeastern United States, 3rd Ed. Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Diseases Study. (Excellent overview of the wildlife diseases of this region. Copies can be obtained from the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study).

These books are for reference on the medicine and surgery of the various species seen at the Wildlife Center.