Wednesday, August 28, 2002

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Progressive Animal
Welfare Society

PO Box 1037
Lynnwood, WA 98046

Kevin Mack
A Dangerous World for Wildlife
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

Over 5,000 injured, orphaned, ill or displaced animals are received each year by the PAWS Wildlife Department. In the last installment of Wild Again I gave a brief overview of the rehabilitation process that these animals undergo during their time at the PAWS Wildlife Center. Although the article gave insight into what happens to wild animals after they are placed in PAWS' care, it did not give an explanation as to why these animals are brought to PAWS in the first place. Since this is a very important piece of the puzzle, I will use this week's installment to discuss some of the most common causes of injury that we see in our wild patients.

Watch the Video

Watch volunteers from Team Depot as they help both wildlife and shelter animals from PAWS.

Animals face many dangers while living wild and free and each species has its own set of adaptations for avoiding or dealing with these dangers. For this reason, it is relatively rare for an animal to be brought to PAWS for what would be considered "natural causes". The vast majority of animals that are admitted have been impacted directly or indirectly by human activities. Human alterations to the environment have created a whole new set of dangers for wildlife.

One of the most frequently encountered causes for admission of wild animals is also one of the most preventable. On average, 15% of the animals that PAWS treats annually are injured by domestic cats. Even the most well-fed house cat still retains a very strong instinct to hunt. If a cat is allowed outside, it is very likely that the local bird and small mammal population will become the unwitting victims of this instinct. The wild animals of North America have never had to deal with a small, agile predator such as the domestic cat and they are therefore highly susceptible to cat predation. By some estimates, domestic cats kill hundreds of millions of wild birds and small mammals nationwide each year. Keeping your cat indoors or in an enclosure while outside will have a direct beneficial effect on the wildlife in your area. For more information, read the "Cats and Wildlife" fact sheet on the PAWS Website at:


This juvenile American Robin was admitted to PAWS after it was attacked by a domestic cat.

Frequently PAWS receives birds that have been injured by striking a window. Nothing in a bird's instinct really prepares it to interpret a large pane of glass as a solid object. Depending on how the light is striking the window, the bird may see the surrounding environment reflected in the glass or it may simply see nothing at all. At any rate, the bird learns the hard way that there is actually a solid object blocking its path and head trauma and broken bones are often suffered in the process. Window strikes can be prevented by placing visible decals on large windows or by hanging windsocks, aluminum pie plates or other objects in front of them. The goal is to give the bird a visual cue that there is a solid object there to be avoided.

Another, thankfully less common, cause for admission at the PAWS Wildlife Center is deliberate harm. Each year a number of animals are admitted with air rifle BB's and pellets, bullets, arrows, and other projectiles embedded in their bodies. Occasionally we receive animals that have been hit by rocks that were thrown at them or have suffered other miscellaneous acts of cruelty. As I write this, the PAWS Wildlife Department is treating a bald eagle, an osprey and a Canada goose, all of which are recovering from gunshot wounds.

Countless additional animals are admitted to the PAWS wildlife center for a variety of other reasons. Many are hit by cars, entangled in fishing line or other material, or affected by chemicals such as oil or pesticides. We receive birds of prey that have either collided with or been electrocuted by high voltage power lines.


This Osprey is currently in PAWS' care recovering from gunshot wounds.

Some animals are received after they have been injured or orphaned during construction or landscaping projects. Occasionally, animals are brought to us after they have been transported far from their natural habitat by unsuspecting motorists or cargo ships. Others come in due to more natural causes such as winter storms (in the case of seabirds) or due to illness or parasites.

The list of possibilities truly is endless and you never really can be certain what will come through the door on any given day. Just when you think you have seen it all, someone brings in an animal that has been injured by something that up until that point seemed to be completely harmless. It always serves to remind me that wild animals have a much different sense of the world than we do and we should not expect them to be able to automatically adjust to all of the strange new things we introduce into their environment. If it is unfamiliar to them and there is the slightest possibility that they can be injured by it, they likely will be. It is up to us to try to determine ahead of time what those possibilities for injury may be. If we don't, the animals will point them out to us in the worst possible way…

Wildlife Release tally: August 7 to August 20, 2002

9 English House Sparrows
2 House Finches
1 Swainson's Thrush
1 Dark-eyed Junco
17 American Robins
1 Steller's Jay
1 Green Heron
1 Little Brown Bat
1 Canada Goose
2 Douglas Squirrels
1 Thayer's Gull
1 Cooper's Hawk
1 Common Murre
1 Mink
4 Virginia Opossums
1 Hoary Marmot
1 Killdeer
6 Barn Swallows
7 Violet-green Swallows
1 Tree Swallow
2 Chestnut-backed Chickadees
12 Mallards
3 Eastern Cottontails
1 Bald Eagle

Wildlife Release tally: 2002 Year to Date
852 animals

All rights reserved. 2002 Progressive Animal Welfare Society

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