Wednesday, Septmeber 25, 2002

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Progressive Animal
Welfare Society

PO Box 1037
Lynnwood, WA 98046

Kevin Mack
Freedom Realized
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

As I was releasing 5 glaucous-winged gulls last Friday, I was reminded of a gull release that I had performed at the same location a year earlier. Releasing a wild animal is always a moving event, but every once in a while I perform a release that really leaves a lasting impression on me. This was the case with the two gulls that were released on August 31st, 2001.

Watch the Video

Watch a gull release that took place on September 20, 2002.

Before the creation of "Wild Again", my release accounts were written only for a weekly release update that was sent out to PAWS staff via email. Below you will find the story of the gull release as it appeared in my staff release update on August 31st, 2001.

Hi everyone,

61 animals were returned to the wild during the week of August 22- August 28, 2001. Although they will appear on next week's release list, I wanted to share the story of 2 juvenile gulls that were released today.

One of the birds had arrived with a badly infected head wound and the other was simply a youngster that had been separated from his parents. After a short chase in the flight pen and a quick check of the first bird's head wound (just a tiny scab left!), I put them in their transport carriers and headed to Picnic Point Park. On the way to the park I drove past a lemonade stand manned by three young children. I cringed, thinking about how it would frighten the birds in the back, when one of the kids yelled, "Lemonade! 10 cents a glass! It's very good!" Although the price was very tempting, I decided to continue on my way. I arrived at the park and made my way, carriers in hand, over the foot bridge that led to the beach.

I chose to release the birds at a spot on the beach next to a stream that was draining into Puget Sound. I thought they might need a drink of fresh water since I had declined to buy them a lemonade on the way to their release.

Saw-whet Owl

This juvenile northern saw-whet owl is being treated at PAWS for a fractured scapula.

I opened both carriers and the gulls immediately jumped out and ran away from me as if they were being released back into a cage (where their flight would be limited). It sometimes takes a while for the animals to grasp the fact of their freedom upon release. I watched as one of them walked into the shallow stream and began to eagerly gulp the water.

At this point I looked to my right and saw a crow on the beach with a very droopy left wing. Nobody likes it when the Naturalist brings animals back into the center but I thought the little guy could use my help. I picked up a towel that had been covering one of the gull carriers and began to approach the crow. The crow eyed me warily and began to move away. I moved a little faster hoping to trap him buy driving him toward a row of vertical pilings that would prevent his escape. Rather than play my little game, the crow decided he would show me that he actually didn't need any help by casually spreading his wings and flying away. Apparently, although he couldn't fold it normally to his body, his wing was fully functional in flight.

As the crow disappeared from view I heard the excited calling of a gull behind me. One of the gulls had just realized that he was no longer a prisoner. I turned to see him flying into the wind and hovering about 20 feet off the ground directly over the other gull.

Western Tanager

Unable to fly when she was found, this female western tanager is currently in care at the PAWS Wildlife Center.

He was vocalizing constantly and, say what you will about anthropomorphism, I only heard joy in that sound. The gull on the ground had his head tilted to one side and he was looking up at his former cage mate with a quizzical (well, as quizzical as a gull can manage) expression on his face. I saw his realization of freedom as it happened. He looked quickly in all directions and once more at the gull above him before he too began vocalizing. He took flight and the two birds began soaring side by side, all the while calling back and forth to each other. They made a wide circle around the beach and passed directly over my head. They did not relieve themselves as they passed over top of me and, in my opinion, that was about the best "thank you" I could expect from a gull. They headed south together following the shoreline closely.

I watched them fly for several minutes and they called to one another the entire time. When they were small shapes in the distance I picked up the empty carriers and returned to my vehicle. As I was climbing into the driver's seat I noticed something shiny on the pavement nearby. It was a dime. I made one last stop before returning to the center.

Wildlife Release tally: September 3 to September 17, 2002

2 Spotted Towhees
4 Cedar Waxwings
1 Dark-eyed Junco
4 Eastern Cottontails
4 Barn Swallows
2 Western Flycatchers
2 Green Herons
5 Townsend's Chipmunks
5 American Crows
2 Band-tailed Pigeons
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk
12 Mallards
1 Wood Duck
1 Gadwall
5 Glaucous-winged Gulls
28 Virginia Opossums
1 Steller's Jay
1 Yellow Warbler
10 American Robins
1 Cliff Swallow
1 Beaver
2 English House Sparrows
1 Swainson's Thrush
4 House Finches
1 Rock Dove
2 Douglas Squirrels

Wildlife Release tally: 2002 Year to Date
1,004 animals

All rights reserved. 2002 Progressive Animal Welfare Society

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