Wednesday, May 8, 2002

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Celebrating the wildlife releases of the PAWS Wildlife Center


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Progressive Animal
Welfare Society

PO Box 1037
Lynnwood, WA 98046

See video of orphaned fox kits finding refuge at PAWS
Late last week an orphaned fox kit, no bigger than a shoe, came to the PAWS Wildlife Center from the South Puget Sound area. The fox joins another fox that came to PAWS three weeks ago. PAWS rarely gets fox kits, so having two kits at the center at the same time is remarkable. See the video of the second fox kit being fed by Wildlife Center Manager Jennifer Convy.

Bears on the Loose
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

Earlier this year, PAWS released two black bear cubs into the Cascade mountains. This year's releases marked the 34th and 35th times that PAWS has returned orphaned black bear cubs to the wild. Bear rehabilitation is time and labor intensive as cubs will often spend 6-8 months at the PAWS Lynnwood Wildlife Center before they are ready for release. During this time they will consume hundreds of pounds of food which, through digestion, leads to the subsequent need for hundreds of hours of staff time spent cleaning their cages! PAWS employs a strict "minimum contact" policy while rehabilitating bear cubs. This helps to ensure that the cubs will maintain a healthy aversion to humans and thus avoid conflicts with them when they are returned to the wild.

Bear

Although the cubs enter their winter sleep at the PAWS Wildlife Center, they must still be tranquilized before being transported to ensure that they do not wake up.

Although they were released in January and February of this year, the cubs were not able to fully realize their newfound freedom until very recently. Late last fall, the cubs entered their winter sleep at the PAWS Wildlife Center. The wildlife center staff helped this process along by darkening their cages, tapering off their food and providing them with cozy straw-lined den boxes. These factors, combined with a natural drop in temperature, prompted the bears to enter hibernation. While the bears slept, artificial dens were constructed out of straw bales at two different release sites in the Cascades.

The first bear to be released was a female from Snohomish. She had arrived at PAWS in April of 2001 after suffering two broken legs during a dog attack. She recovered fully and was a strong, healthy yearling when she was placed into her release den on January 24th, 2002. Her release site, located near Mt. Rainier National Park, was chosen with the assistance of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). She slept soundly in her straw den until Early April when a WDFW enforcement officer found that she had pushed aside bales that were blocking the entrance and had emerged to explore her new home.

The second bear to be released was a male found near Chehalis. Arriving at PAWS in August of 2001, the cub had been hit by a car and had suffered a broken leg. After two surgeries, the leg healed well and the bear made a full recovery. His release site was chosen with the assistance of the United States Forest Service (USFS) and was located to the Northeast of Mt. St. Helens. He was placed in his release den on February 6th, 2002. In mid-March, a USFS biologist visited the den site to find that the bear had pushed the straw bales away from the den entrance, but he was still sleeping inside. The biologist returned to the den on April 8th to find that the bear had vacated the premises. The cub had left claw marks on two fir trees and had clawed up a small patch of ground. He must have woken up hungry as he had also torn apart a nearby rotten log, presumably to dine on the insects contained within.

Bear Den

This den, constructed of straw bales, plastic and fir boughs, became the winter home of the cub that was found near Chehalis.

Where the bears go from here is entirely up to them. Their lives are once again their own. Hopefully both the human-caused injuries they suffered and the human-provided care that helped them heal are now nothing more to them than a bad winter's dream.

The 35 bears that PAWS has raised and released were all cared for at the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood. During the 21 years that the PAWS Wildlife Department has existed, the Lynnwood location has become increasingly surrounded by urban sprawl. Within the past 5 years, the remaining small plots of forest surrounding the PAWS property have been replaced with housing developments. The result has been an increase in human-related noise and activity, the very thing that needs to be avoided when raising bears and highly stressed birds of prey. For this reason, PAWS hopes to create a remote rehabilitation facility specifically for large mammals (bears, cougars, deer, etc.) and birds of prey. To meet that goal, PAWS is currently searching for suitable land in Snohomish or King County on which to place a remote facility.

Help the bears at PAWS this summer
PAWS has helped three dozen baby bears at our Lynnwood Wildlife Hospital, and we expect that this summer we will see more injured and orphaned bears needing care, love, and attention. The PAWS bear rehabilitation program is respected across the world, but we need your help to provide the important care needed to help them run free once again. Please help bears by donating to PAWS. Please let us know in the comment field that you want to help the bears!

Wildlife Release tally: April 17 to April 30, 2002
American Robin- 2
Garter Snake (undifferentiated)- 1
Eastern Gray Squirrel- 11
Virginia Opossum- 2
Eastern Cottontail- 1
Glaucous-winged Gull- 2
Thayer's Gull- 1
Spotted Towhee- 1
Barn Owl- 1
Mallard- 1
Rock Dove- 3
Violet-green Swallow- 1
Pine Siskin- 1

Wildlife Release tally: 2002 Year to Date
75 mammals and birds

All rights reserved. 2002 Progressive Animal Welfare Society

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