Wednesday, June 19, 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


Fawns recuperate at the PAWS Wildlife Center.

Inquisitive fawns discover that the observation camera is tasty!
See the video of our inquisitive fawns as one fawn discovers that the hidden observation camera lens is tasty. The first deer you see in the video (taken last Saturday) is the baby fawn rescued by a good Samaritan two weeks ago on I-90 near Cle Elem. Read a Seattle Times story that recounts this fawn's amazing beginnings. If seeing these fawns touches your heart, remember that saving these fawns and providing their much-needed medical care, food, and love is very expensive. Please help support the care of our fawns by donating to PAWS today. Your gift of $100 will help pay for a week's worth of milk for these orphans at our wildlife center. Thank you.

Busy Season Begins to Show on the Release List
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist
The past two weeks have been a blur of releases as the PAWS Wildlife Department returned over 150 animals to the wild. In all, 18 different species of birds and mammals were released in addition to 1 species of reptile. All of these releases were notable, but there are three in particular that I feel compelled to share with you.

On June 8th, two gulls were released at Brackett's Landing Beach in Edmonds. One of the two gulls was a Glaucous-winged gull that had arrived at PAWS on April 12th. He had been hit by a car in Seattle and had suffered a fracture in both his left leg and his left wing. His injuries required several weeks of cage rest, but the fractures healed very well. He was eventually placed in an outdoor flight enclosure with a Thayer's gull that had been treated for a minor wing injury. The two birds spent about three weeks in the enclosure strengthening their flight muscles and acclimating to outside temperatures.

When their transport carriers were opened at Brackett's Landing, the two gulls jumped out and ran down to the waters edge. The Thayer's gull began calling and was quickly answered by another Thayer's gull that was about 15 yards away. The two birds approached to within 2 feet of each other calling all the way. The glaucous-winged gull then decided to join them and began calling loudly. The local Thayer's gull was not impressed and he charged the glaucous-winged gull, nipping him on the tail as he retreated. Feeling very unwelcome, the glaucous-winged gull took to the air and flew about 100 yards north along the beach. As he landed, he was greeted by 2 calling glaucous-winged gulls who seemed to be far more tolerant than the resident Thayer's had been. He called back excitedly and then entered the water for a swim.

In the meantime, the Thayer's gull that I had just released had taken flight and was circling high over my head. All of these events were remarkable to watch considering that one of these birds couldn't walk and neither of them could fly when they had arrived at PAWS. Within a matter of minutes after their release, they were indistinguishable from the other gulls present on that beach. In wildlife rehabilitation, that is the best possible outcome, an animal that upon release is indistinguishable from other individuals of its species in the wild.

Both of the above mentioned gulls were adults, but the last two weeks also saw the release of many animals that had arrived at PAWS as orphaned juveniles. On Friday, June 14th, I released 14 juvenile mallards into Lake Washington at the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture. I placed two transport carriers containing 7 mallards each at the water's edge and opened the doors. I then proceeded to wait…and wait…and wait. With Juvenile mallards, there is a feeling of safety in numbers, and no one wants to be the first bird to venture into the unknown.


14 juvenile mallards inspect their new home in Lake Washington.

As much as I would have enjoyed spending the day by the lake, I eventually approached the carriers to give the ducks a little encouragement. At my approach, one of the mallards decided that the water looked a bit safer than the large predator that was approaching and made a break for it. The flock mentality took over and the other 13 ducks rapidly plunged into the water. Once in the water, the realization of freedom kicked in and the mallards paddled around excitedly. Many of them began to feed on duckweed and floating insects and the entire flock moved as a single unit. I watched them (as a nearby great blue heron watched me warily) until they disappeared behind a thick stand of cattails.

The third release I would like to share was that of two juvenile green herons. A citizen had found the birds as fledglings and dropped them off at a vet clinic. The vet clinic then transferred them to PAWS. The finder of the birds left no information at the vet clinic, so returning the herons to their nest was, unfortunately, not an option. The birds were housed at PAWS until they were fully able to fly and to fend for themselves.


A great blue heron watched warily as the mallards were released.

On Saturday, June 15, the green herons were released at a large wetland near Everett. As the transport carrier was opened, I witnessed two different green heron defense behaviors. The first heron out of the box simply flew away and out of sight. It seemed to be a pretty effective defense. The second heron flew only about 10 yards and landed on a nearby bush at the edge of a small pond. Upon landing, the heron immediately pointed his beak skyward and stretched his neck as far as it would go. He then froze in this position. The streaked plumage on his body and on his thin neck allowed him to blend perfectly with the bush in which he was perched. Had I not watched him land there, I likely would not have been able to detect him. Satisfied that both birds had a firm grasp on how to avoid predators, I grabbed the transport box and left them to their lives.

These three stories represent only 18 of the 150 + individual animals that were released by PAWS in the past two weeks. Every release represents a second chance at life for a wild animal that would have otherwise perished. In a world that has become increasingly hostile to wildlife, I feel privileged to be able to be part of a process that helps to restore at least some of the animals that are being harmed by our current choice of lifestyle. Thank you all for supporting the work that we do.

Wildlife Release tally: May 29 to June 11, 2002
25 Virginia Opossums
10 English House Sparrows
7 House Finches
8 American Robins
6 Rock Doves
2 Band-tailed Pigeons
1 Short-tailed Weasel
24 Mallards
1 Glaucous-winged Gull
1 Thayer's Gull
2 Eastern Cottontails
2 Pine Siskins
50 European Starlings
1 Spotted Towhee
1 Dark-eyed Junco
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Western Tanager
16 Eastern Gray Squirrels
3 Barn Owls
2 Killdeer
1 English House Sparrow

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

All rights reserved. 2002 Progressive Animal Welfare Society

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