Animal Care Intern

Animal Care Internship

The Wildcat Sanctuary has a dynamic intern program looking for highly motivated, dedicated, and passionate individuals looking to gain experience in all aspects of animal care/husbandry and running a sanctuary. If you’re looking for a challenging, yet rewarding experience, and the opportunity to provide the ultimate care for our rescued felines, this may be the internship for you.

We’re an accredited, non-profit sanctuary nestled between the beautiful lakes, fields and forests in Sandstone, Minnesota conveniently located between Duluth and the Twin Cities. We’re home to over 100 wild cats with a mission to provide a natural sanctuary to our residents and inspire change to end the captive wildlife crisis.

Our goal is to provide a rounded experience in the animal industry, teach our interns what it takes to be a caretaker while educating them about the sanctuary field and the captive wildlife crisis. Interns will gain valuable experience from exotic feline husbandry, assisting staff in the building of animal enclosures, diet preparation, enrichment, grounds keeping, emergency response, assisting volunteers while on site and more.

Please note: contact is prohibited between the wild cat residents and interns.

With applicants from across the country applying annually and only 12-14 positions available, TWS will only accept those individuals with a strong work ethic and a passion and commitment to providing exceptional care to all our residents.

This internship program has also provided a means of recruiting for animal caretaker positions. Over half of our animal care staff have been former TWS interns.

Intern applicants with previous animal experience are encouraged to apply (rehabilitation, domestic animal shelters, other internships.) This is also a great internship for college graduates with degrees in the fields of zoology, biology, animal psychology, veterinary sciences or other animal-related experience.  A degree is not required.

NOTE: TWS is not accepting international applicants at the time.

The internship duration is 6 months.

  • Spring Session runs every March thru August
  • Fall Session runs every September thru February

See below for specific start and end dates.  A 3-month, unpaid internship is available on a case-by-case basis, but priority is given to 6-month applicants.

TWS provides free intern housing and a $50 weekly stipend for food.  Interns are required to live on-site for the entire duration of the internship period.

Intern Applicant Prerequisites:

  • Must be 18 years of age
  • Fluent in the English language (verbal and written communication)
  • Provide your own health insurance
  • In good physical condition
  • Able to kneel, stoop, bend, twist, lift, reach, push, pull, and walk on uneven terrain
  • Ability to consistently lift 60 pounds
  • Comfortable on ladders and using power tools
  • Hold a valid driver’s license
  • Comfortable driving SUV/ Cargo Van (or willingness to learn)
  • Work in all weather conditions (rain, snow, wind) and during weather extremes (hot and cold)
  • Work 8-10-hour shifts, 6 days per week, including weekends, holidays and evening.
  • Provide their own mode of transportation to TWS
  • Must obtain tetanus vaccination prior to participating in the internship program
  • Postive attitude and good working in a team environment
  • Must be able to multi-task and be flexible in a work environment
  • No allergies around animals that woudld preclude you from living or working with cats

Available Intern Sessions

Fall 2019 Session: Sept 3rd, 2019 thru Feb 26th, 2020

Fall session 2020 start Sept 1st end of Feb 2021 – accepting applications

Applications are received year-round for all upcoming terms.  Preference will be given to all applications received prior to the deadline, however any applications received after the deadline may be considered if positions are still open.

How to Apply

Interested applicants should send their resume, cover letter and a copy of your driver’s license, with this completed application to P.O Box 314 Sandstone, MN 55072 or email the information to [email protected]. If emailing the document, please try and send the combined files in pdf format.

Resume – Please be sure to include the following:

  • Any paid or volunteer experience with animals- native wildlife, domestic, or exotic – add in contact information for supervisor where possible
  • Any experience working with the public or large groups
  • Any other experience that you feel may be relevant in consideration for this internship
  • Three professional (preferred) or academic references from individuals, not related to you, with complete contact information

Cover letter – Please be sure to include the following:

  • Explanation of previous experience that would be valuable to TWS
  • What your career goals are for the future and how this internship will help you attain your future career goals
  • Any special skills or personal attributes that you feel make you an ideal candidate for the internship
  • Any other information that you feel may be relevant in consideration for this internship

Training Program

To ensure the safety of our interns, staff and residents, all interns must participate in all training provided by TWS.  Training with be a combination of shadowing, hands on, classroom style and a series of quizzes to ensure every intern has the necessary information and training to perform daily tasks and become an advocate for these magnificent animals.

You will gain knowledge in the following:

  • General Animal Information: Covers protocols for keeper records, animal and enclosure inspections.
  • Animal Emergency/ Escape: Interns will be instructed on the different procedures to ensure human and animal safety for all species that TWS houses. These protocols will be practiced regularly throughout the duration of each internship session.
  • Safety Equipment: We familiarize interns with the various equipment TWS uses. Each intern will learn the name and function of each piece of equipment; however, this is NOT a training on how to use the chemical immobilization and the lethal force equipment. Interns will learn the proper techniques using transport equipment; self-protection tools and domestic/ hybrid capture equipment.
  • Natural Disaster/Bad Weather: Interns will learn about the system that TWS has in place to provide early warning of severe temperature extremes and weather patterns to keep TWS’s residents safe and secure.
  • General Husbandry: Learn the appropriate methods to assess an animal’s behavior and the environment around them through animal observation skills. Interns are instructed on the importance of enrichment in a captive animal’s life. They will learn the four different types of enrichment, what acceptable forms of enrichment are for various species and the safety precautions of providing enrichment. For the safety of humans and our residents, cats are shifted into “lock-outs” while enclosures are being cleaned or maintained. Interns will learn the appropriate methods for “locking-out” various species ranging from African Servals to Bengal tigers using operant conditioning. We will cover the policies and procedures for food preparation for all TWS feline species. Interns will also learn the methods to accurately and carefully administer and distribute medication and supplements to TWS’s residents. Quarterly, interns will assist staff in fecal and parasitic prevention for its residents.
  • Zone Husbandry Training: Our sanctuary is divided into 3 work “zones” comprised of the various species that reside with us. Each intern will rotate through the 3 zones with one of our lead caretakers learning daily cleaning/feeding, enrichment and husbandry procedures. You will learn proper care of all our residents; from our pint-sized hybrids (Bengals, Savannahs, Chausies and Jungle Cats) to our majestic big cats (Tigers, Lions, Leopards, and Cougars) and those in between (Bobcats, Lynx, Servals.)  You will learn the skills necessary to keep our cats happy, healthy and wild at heart.
  • Crew Day Volunteer Relations/Tour Guide: Teaches onsite volunteers safety procedures and guidelines for assisting on crew days. Give guided tours of the sanctuary and volunteer sign in and check out.
  • Animal Observation/Vet procedures: All medical procedures/treatments are done solely by the Hospital Manager and Veterinarian. Interns may need to assist and observe these procedures and treatments on a case-by-case basis.  You’ll learn basic animal observation and first aid techniques necessary to assist our hospital manager during treatments and medical procedures.  Assisting in the hospital is not a guarantee for any intern.  It is strictly on a case-by-case basis being decided by TWS management. The decision is based on the following criteria (but not limited to): risk and safety of humans and animal, condition and personality of the animal, and the intern’s behavior and work ethic.
  • Behavioral Management Program: This program is a tool used in conjunction with other components to provide a holistic approach to animal care. These components include: enclosure design, diet, enrichment, veterinary care, and husbandry. Interns will participate where it is incorporated into routine animal care. Specific training plans with certain cats will be conducted by the Animal Caretakers. Interns may have the opportunity to observe a training session.
  • Building Enclosures/Construction: Learn about the amount and type of hardware that goes into building new enclosures and maintaining current enclosures. Assist in the building and modifications of habitats and enclosures.
  • Captive Wildlife Crisis: Learn about the estimated 10,000 tigers in captivity in the United States, higher than the number living in the wild. Interns will learn about the exotic animal trade and why exotic animals are bought and sold; e.g. private ownership, exhibiting, and breeding of captive wildlife.
  • Basic Human First Aid: Learn about the physical and behavioral signs of more common health conditions and concerns. This covers basic treatments and protocols for handling various situations, but by no means equivalent to a C.P.R. training course.


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