PAWS Wild Again
September 2007

Kevin Mack

Freedom in the Air, on the Land and in the Sea
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

As is always the case during the late summer, releases have really picked up over the last few weeks. With so many interesting stories to tell, it was very hard to choose an animal on whom to focus for this month's Wild Again. In fact, it was so hard that I decided not to choose! Why share one story when I can share four or five? The following photos document several releases that occurred in the time since the last issue of Wild Again was mailed. I hope you enjoy them!

Cooper's Hawk #07-1824 Release - August 24
Cooper's Hawk #07-1804 arrived at PAWS Wildlife Center on August 15. She had been hit by a car on Highway 99 in Edmonds, and suffered internal trauma and minor abrasions. She received supportive care for a few days and recovered quickly from her injuries. After a short evaluation period in an outdoor aviary, she was deemed fit for release.


PAWS interns Abbie and Julie had the honor of opening the release box to set Cooper's Hawk 07-1824 free. As you can see in this photo, the hawk was very eager to go and surprised Abbie as she burst out of the box.



The hawk quickly flew away as both Abbie (left) and Julie (right) leaned back to give her room. The bird landed in a nearby tree and got her bearings before flying out of sight.


Raccoon Release - September 6
During the first week in September, several of the orphaned Raccoons who were raised at the wildlife center this summer were released. It is always enjoyable to watch Raccoons make their transition back to the wild. They seem to relish every new texture, smell and taste that they encounter.


At release, young Raccoons tend to be a little timid at first and are usually reluctant to leave the safety of their carrier. Here, one Raccoon peeks out to see if the coast is clear.



Satisfied that they were not in immediate danger, all three Raccoons exited the carrier together. One took an interest in a branch sticking out of a nearby log.



The urge to climb was irresistible. One raccoon scaled the log while another watched from below.



A lichen-covered stick caught the attention of one of the Raccoons.



The Raccoon gently pawed the branch to feel its texture, but he was wary of the humans that were nearby taking photos.



He moved back toward the carrier and began to dig.



He then climbed on top of the log to join the other two Raccoons.



On top of the logs, the raccoons found an unlimited supply of things to touch, smell and taste.



Even the bark was interesting, and this Raccoon gave it a thorough rub down with his sensitive paws.



While feeling the bark, the Raccoon apparently detected something edible. I didn't see what it was, but it was most likely an insect.



I must have shifted position or made a noise, because the Raccoons suddenly became very aware that they were being watched.



They worked their way up the log and disappeared into the brush.


Skunk Release - September 6
You may recall the baby Striped Skunks who were featured in the July issue of Wild Again. They were brought to PAWS Wildlife Center after being found near the body of their mother along the highway in Auburn. Two of the skunks were released on September 6 near the Green River.


After the carrier door was opened, one of the skunks tentatively poked her head out and began to sniff.



She must have liked what she smelled. She quickly exited the carrier and disappeared into the long grass.



Her sister inspected the grass, but then turned to the left and began sniffing around on a nearby gravel pathway. She was nervous at first which is evident by her erect tail. You don't want to push your luck with a skunk when the tail is in this position.



As the second skunk explored her surroundings, she began to relax. Her tail dropped down into a more relaxed position.



She paused for a moment to test the breeze...



...and then she headed off down the trail following a scent that only she could detect. She moved with confidence, as if she knew that nearly every animal she encountered would give her a wide berth.


Harbor Seal #07-1473 Release - September 11
Harbor Seal 07-1473 made his first appearance in Wild Again last month. He is the small seal at the end of the issue that appeared to be smiling in his photo. On September 11, he really had something to smile about as he was returned to his home waters in Samish Bay.


After arriving at the release site, I opened the back of the truck to find seal 07-1473 pushing on the bars of his carrier. He likely smelled the salt in the air and was eager for his confinement to end. The dark, wet patches around his eyes and mouth are signs that he is well-hydrated. He had weathered the 80-minute truck ride without difficulty.



Wildlife Rehabilitator John Samaras and I hauled the seal down a short trail and across the beach to the water's edge. John opened the carrier and the seal poked his head out to sniff the saltwater in front of him.



The seal crawled out of his carrier and began to move forward through the shallow water. His weight had more than tripled during his time at PAWS, and he looked a bit like a large caterpillar as he undulated his way toward freedom.



Suddenly, the seal seemed to realize that there were no walls to this pool. He looked to his left...



...and then he quickly looked to his right.



He continued to move forward, pausing occasionally to inspect rocks that he passed along the way.



By the time he reached deeper water, he was sporting the distinctive hair style that all seals seem to get on release day.



The seal bent his neck backward so he could take a look behind him, and then he dove.



When the seal resurfaced, he had a piece of eel grass on his nose. He looked at us...



...and then headed out into open water.


A Tail Wagging Success

Thank you to all of our friends who supported PAWS at the 16th annual PAWSwalk. Presented by 98.9 Smooth Jazz KWJZ, PAWSwalk 2007 was a true success! While donations for the animals continue to come in, we are thrilled to announce we have surpassed our goal of $150,000. Read more and view photos at PAWSwalk.net.

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