Celebrating the wildlife releases of the PAWS Wildlife Center
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by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist
There were over 1,200 graduates in the PAWS Wildlife Department Class of 2002. These 1,200 + individuals formed a diverse group representing over 100 different species. None of them undertook the PAWS curriculum of applied biology, veterinary medicine, ecology and other life sciences by choice. Instead, they found themselves forced into it by circumstances beyond their control. Despite their lack of initial enthusiasm, they all passed the final test with flying (or running, swimming, slithering, hopping, climbing, etc.) colors and are now doing what every PAWS "student" dreams of...field work.
As the coordinator of "graduation ceremonies", I feel that it is appropriate for me to say a few words to this year's graduates. They are stronger now, and due to the experiences that brought them to PAWS, perhaps a bit wiser, but they may still benefit from a little advice.
This California Quail is currently being treated for head trauma at PAWS.
To the red-tailed hawks: Be on the lookout for squirrels that do not follow the advice above.
To the coyotes and foxes: Outdoor house cats are abundant, try not to eat them. As difficult as it will be for you to distinguish them from naturally occurring prey, the cat's owner will likely still expect you to. Even if you do not eat any cats, prepare to be blamed every time one disappears. Also, please note the advice given to red-tailed hawks above.
To the songbirds and small mammals: Outdoor house cats are abundant, try not to get eaten by them.
To the opossums: Those hard, flat areas that stretch on for miles are called roads. The big, fast-moving shiny things on them are called cars. Be sure to avoid them, as they seem to have great difficulty avoiding you. Also, even though cat and/or dog food is often made easily accessible to you, the humans who leave it out will expect you to know that it is not for you.
To the Crows: Be on the lookout for opossums that do not follow the advice given above on avoiding cars.
To the ducks: If you are flying high over a pond and you hear quacking below you that sounds a little odd, or if you see conspecifics on the water that appear rigid and lifeless, don't fly in closer to investigate. Also, don't eat bread, it's bad for you.
To the geese: Avoid city parks. Even though humans have designed them to include prime goose habitat, most of them expect you to know better than to take advantage of it. Also, please see bread comment above.
To the gulls: I know they are tasty and easily acquired, but French fries should not be the mainstay of your diet. Also, please see bread comment above.
To the bears: Even though a garbage can with an unsecured lid seems like an open invitation to help yourself, the human who failed to secure the lid will get upset if you eat from the can. Some humans will also expect you to know that bird feeders are not bear feeders. You are also expected to move out immediately whenever a new 100-unit townhouse colony pops up in your formerly wooded territory. In all honesty, it's pretty much a good idea for you to run if you so much as think you smell a human.
To the deer: Please read the last sentence of the bear advice.
Thin and weak upon admission, this Pacific Loon is regaining strength at the PAWS Wildlife Center.
To all birds: Very few humans hang ornaments or windsocks in front of their windows to cue you in to the danger. Some even keep their sliding glass doors so highly polished that they walk into them themselves. Beware of apparent openings in otherwise solid walls. And for the male robins in the group, that persistent rival that seems to know your every move and will not leave your territory no matter how hard you hit him is your reflection. The human who owns the window that is creating the reflection will probably expect you to know this.
To barn owl 02-0109: As dark, warm and appealing as it seems, the exhaust port in the tail of a jet airplane is not an appropriate place to roost. I hope you realize that now.
Finally, to all of the 2002 "graduates": Congratulations! You've made it. You overcame the odds and now have a second chance at life. You owe nothing to the PAWS program from which you graduated. Your continued existence is the only payment in which this organization is interested. We do, however have one request. We would prefer that you avoid any situations that might end up with you returning to attend graduate school...
Wildlife Release tally: December 11 to December 31, 2002
Wildlife Release tally: 2002
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