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February 6, 2009  
Photo of Kevin Mack.

Surrounded by Wildness
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

A common question that visitors ask us here at the PAWS Wildlife Center is, "Can we see any of the animals?" Although we do sometimes have animals that can be viewed via closed-circuit television in the lobby, direct viewing of the patients in our care is not allowed. The wild animals with whom we work are generally very fearful of people when they are healthy, and even more so when they are sick and/or injured and in captivity. The less they are exposed to humans the lower their stress level will be and the faster their recovery. In addition, the wildlife rehabilitation permits that allow PAWS to legally work with sick and injured wild animals explicitly state that the animals undergoing rehabilitation are not to be put on display. So, with all of this in mind it may come as a surprise that the answer to the question, "Can we see any of the animals?" is actually, "Yes."

The reason PAWS Wildlife Center receives so many injured, ill and orphaned wild animals is because we humans are surrounded by wildlife. You would be amazed to discover how many wild animals live right outside (and occasionally inside) your front door. The majority of the wild animals at PAWS, even many of the big ones, come from heavily developed urban and suburban areas. So yes, you can see the animals that we have at the PAWS Wildlife Center, and in most cases you need look no further than your own backyard.

The Lynnwood campus on which the PAWS Wildlife Center and Companion Animal Shelter sit provides a perfect example of the wildlife abundance present in our yards and neighborhoods. In April of 2008, I began taking photos of animals that I encountered on PAWS' campus during the course of my daily work. I didn't have to spend time searching for animals or waiting for them to appear. I simply carried my camera with me whenever I was outside and took photos as the opportunity arose. By the end of the year, I had taken more than 220 photos representing 48 species of birds, mammals, amphibians, insects, arachnids and mollusks. Some examples of the species I saw are shown in the photos below.

So I encourage you to look, listen and just plain pay attention to the wildlife around you as you go about your daily lives. The 220-plus photos that I took last year just on PAWS' campus represent only a tiny fraction of the activity that is happening every minute of every day literally right under (or sometimes over) our noses. Whether you are in a pristine forest or a mall parking lot, wildlife is your constant neighbor. But don't take my word for it. Check it out for yourselves.


In late April, a Rufous Hummingbird was frequently seen drinking from Salmonberry blossoms on PAWS' campus.

Bewick's Wrens are present year-round on PAWS' campus. This one was spotted singing in May.

Starting in May and continuing through early June, a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers were excavating a nest cavity in a snag along our dog walking path.

Both male and female Black-headed Grosbeaks were spotted on PAWS' campus in May.

Several pairs of Brown Creepers successfully nested in our many snags. This photo of an adult bringing food to the nest was taken in June.

American Robins also successfully nested here. The nest in this photo was built in the airlock of one of the wildlife center's Raccoon pens.

Many Western Tanagers were seen on PAWS' campus during their August migration.

Garden Orb Weaver spiders were present in abundance in August.

American Crows can be seen around PAWS year-round. At least two adult pairs nested and raised young on the campus last year.

Although the Pileated Woodpeckers abandoned their nest cavity in mid-June, the adult pair made appearances on campus throughout the year, including this one in August.

Bushtits are also seen year-round on the PAWS campus, and many pairs nest in the bushes around the wildlife center and along the dog walking trail.

Absent during the summer months, Winter Wrens are visible on PAWS' campus from September through March.

When the weather turned rainy in the fall, mollusks such as this terrestrial snail became a common sight.

Black-capped Chickadees also successfully raised young on PAWS' campus in 2008. In the fall they formed feeding flocks with Chest-nut Backed Chickadees, Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets and a variety of other small birds.

The introduced Eastern Gray Squirrel, like the one pictured, is a common sight on PAWS' campus, but the native Douglas Squirrel is occasionally seen as well.

Amphibians, such as this Long-toed Salamander, are common on PAWS' property. They often go unnoticed due to their secretive habits.

As mentioned above, Ruby-crowned Kinglets are often seen in large feeding flocks with other small birds.

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A Northwest leader in protecting animals since 1967, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) shelters homeless animals, rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife, and empowers people to demonstrate compassion and respect for animals in their daily lives.

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