PAWS Wild Again - March 2011
Photo of Kevin Mack

The Best Possible "Thank You"

by Kevin Mack - PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

As a woman named Beth drove along N 45th Street in Seattle On February 22, she and her two young sons noticed a gull walking in the road ahead. As they drew closer they saw that something was very odd about the bird. His head was turned to the left and he was moving it awkwardly as if it were stuck to his left wing. Preoccupied with his struggle, the bird was unaware of his surroundings and he was wandering in traffic. Recognizing the grave danger he was in, Beth immediately parked her car and rushed to the bird's aid.

When Beth approached the gull he attempted to run away. A concerned passer-by cut off his escape, allowing Beth to safely capture the bird. Up close she could see the source of the gull's distress. A large fishing lure was attached to the bird. A treble hook on the front of the lure appeared to be embedded in the gullís left eye, while a second hook on the tail of the lure was attached to the bird's wing. He could move neither his head nor his wing without putting tension on the hooks and causing himself great pain. Beth placed the gull in a box and transported him to the PAWS Wildlife Center for help.

At PAWS, Assistant Wildlife Rehabilitator Ashley Bobst and I admitted the gull and performed his intake examination. We used a pair of wire cutters to clip the hooks off of the lure and free up the bird's head. Because of the embedded hook, we were unable to see the gull's left eye, but it did not look very promising. Two of the treble hook's barbed points were sticking out through the bottom eyelid. The third barb was embedded in the upper eyelid. It was difficult to imagine a way that the hook could have ended up in that position without badly damaging the eye itself. The hook in the wing was only attached by one of the three points, and it appeared to have caused only superficial damage. We provided the bird with fluids and placed him in a warm, dark cage to await assessment by the veterinary team.

When we first examined the gull it was difficult to tell whether or not the hook had damaged his eye.

PAWS Veterinarian Dr. Darlene Deghetto and Veterinary Technician Jean Leonhardt anesthetized the gull to remove the hooks. Dr. Darlene carefully clipped the barbed end off of each individual point on the treble hook that was embedded in the bird's eyelids and carefully extracted it. As the hook was removed and the eyelids parted, Dr. Darlene and Jean were amazed to see a fully intact eye behind them. After placing a drop of staining agent in the gull's eye to check for scratches or abrasions and finding none, Dr. Darlene removed the hook from his wing. Despite his harrowing ordeal with the fishing lure, the gull appeared to have avoided any serious injuries. Dr. Darlene prescribed antibiotics for the bird to ensure that he did not develop an infection as his wounds healed.

When I checked on the gull the following day, he looked like a new bird. The lids of his left eye were scabbed and slightly swollen, but he was bright, alert and clearly seeing well out of that eye. He spent a few days in an inside enclosure while completing his antibiotics before being moved to a large, outdoor cage with a pool. After just one week of care the gull was ready to return home, and I made arrangements to meet Beth and her sons on a Seattle beach so they could see the ultimate result of their caring actions.

The gull looked like a new bird the day after he was admitted.

At 3:45 pm on March 2, the gull was set free at Seattle's Golden Gardens Park. One of Beth's sons opened the transport carrier's door and, after a short pause, the bird emerged. It was a very windy day, and the gull was pushed along by the wind as he walked about 20 yards to the water's edge. As we watched, he opened his wings and let the wind lift him about three feet into the air before refolding his wings and dropping back down to the sand. He did this twice more as if he was testing the air before launching himself skyward in earnest.

Facing into the wind, the gull climbed straight up until he was about 15 feet in the air. Then, with a few quick flaps of his wings he cruised up the beach passing directly over our heads. As Beth and her sons beamed up at the bird, I reminded them that it was their willingness to stop and help that had made this moment possible. I could tell from their awed looks and wide smiles as they watched him fly off into the distance that this was the best possible "thank you" the gull could have given them.

Seen here just hours before his release, the only remaining sign of the gull's ordeal is some slight swelling in his eyelid. | About | Cats & Dogs | Wildlife | Get Involved | Events | Kids | Support PAWS

Find us online: Find us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Watch our YouTube channel

Please direct questions or comments to

All rights reserved. ©2011 Progressive Animal Welfare Society
PAWS, P.O. Box 1037, Lynnwood, WA 98046