Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

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PAWS Mailing Address:
PO Box 1037
Lynnwood WA, 98046

PAWS Physical Address:
15305 44th Ave W
Lynnwood, WA 98037

Kevin Mack
A Rare Gift
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

At dusk on February 19th, a large animal carrier with a closed door sat on an 85+ acre piece of property at the north end of Whidbey Island. The carrier was in a small clearing bordered by mixed forest, including marshy areas with abundant alders, and many tall fir trees. Inside the carrier sat a Barred Owl, looking out at the landscape before him, and waiting patiently for the door to be opened. The owl had no way of knowing it, but the beautiful habitat that he was seeing beyond the cage door was at one time in danger of being lost forever. He also had no way of knowing that Donna and Dennis Painter, the two people responsible for the continued existence of the habitat, were standing nearby to watch him accept their gift.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl 03-4548 stretches his wings in a large outdoor flight pen.

Barred Owl 03-4548 arrived at the PAWS Wildlife Center on December 22nd, 2003. The bird's finder was in a hurry, and only provided us with the information that the owl was from Whidbey Island before rushing out the door. At admit, the owl was bright, alert, and standing, but he was only supporting himself with his right leg. During his physical examination it was discovered that he had fractured his left tibiotarsus (a bone of the lower leg in birds). A fractured rib was also discovered when a radiograph was taken to assess the leg fracture and look for additional injuries. Although we could not say for certain what had happened to the owl, collision with a car seemed to be the most likely cause of his injuries.

The owl's leg was splinted, and he was placed in a small indoor cage to limit his movement. By January 5th, the fracture site was stable, and the leg splint was removed. The leg was still very sore, and the owl was reluctant to bear weight on it, but his prospects for a full recovery were excellent.

Barred Owl

The owl's condition steadily improved during his stay at PAWS until he regained full use of his formerly broken leg.

Over the course of the following week, he showed steady improvement in the use of his leg, and on January 12th he was deemed ready to move to an outdoor flight pen. After spending a little over a month in the flight pen, strengthening both his leg and flight muscles, Barred Owl 03-4548 was ready to go.

When I began thinking about a release site for Barred Owl 03-4548, all I knew was that he had come from Whidbey Island. Whidbey Island is over 50 miles long, so the odds of my guessing the location in which he was found were only slightly better than my odds of winning the Megamillions lottery. The best I could do was to choose a site that I knew had excellent habitat in which he could get a good start. Donna and Dennis Painter's property came to mind immediately.

Barred Owl

Perfectly camouflaged, Barred Owl 03-4548 sits in an alder tree immediately after his release.

Donna and Dennis have been participants in the PAWS Release Site Program (www.paws.org/work/wildlife/releasesite.html) for some time now. Several months ago, Donna called me to inform me that she and Dennis would like to add additional land to the PAWS Release Site Database. Donna said that when she and Dennis found out that the 85 acres adjacent to their property were slated to be developed, they decided to use their retirement savings to purchase the property and protect it. I was completely amazed by their willingness to make a personal sacrifice to prevent the destruction of wildlife habitat. I was amazed even further in November when Donna called me to say that a Wild Again article called "the Tide" (Nov. 19th, 2003) had inspired her and Dennis to restore, and permanently protect their land. On February 19th, Barred Owl 03-4548 became the first PAWS patient to directly benefit from this newly created haven for wildlife.

After giving the owl ample time to adjust to the sights and sounds of his surroundings, I approached the carrier to remove the final barrier to his freedom. Upon reaching the carrier, I heard the owl's talons hit the door in an apparent demonstration of his displeasure with the delay.

Barred Owl

The owl flies across the clearing, headed for another alder on the opposite side.

As I peeked through the door to make sure that my fingers would not be in danger while working the latch, the owl retreated to the back of the carrier and puffed out his feathers, nearly doubling his apparent size. I opened the door and stepped out of his line of sight, giving him back the view that had been beckoning him only moments before. He quickly forgot my intrusion, and he exited the carrier leaving the stress and indignities of captivity behind. Taking flight, he landed in the branches of a nearby alder, his mottled color pattern lending him excellent camouflage amidst the tangle of limbs. Whether he was near his original home or not, I can't say, but he was at the very least back in his element, and no longer concerned with the humans watching him nearby. He assessed his surroundings for a full five minutes before flying silently across the clearing and landing in another alder on the opposite side. We left him at that point as we took a short tour of the property in the fading light. When we returned to the clearing, the owl was gone.

Thank you, Donna and Dennis, for your incredible gift to wildlife. In a time when so much of the news we hear regarding wildlife is negative, your actions have given us an excellent example of how we as individuals can make a difference, and help to stem the tide of habitat destruction. I am truly inspired by you.

Gala Evening Benefit for the Animals at PAWS
PAWS Presents Roger Fouts 7:00 pm, Thursday, March 18th at the Renaissance Madison Hotel in downtown Seattle.

Roger is a professor of psychology at Central Washington University and Co-Director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute. He has been a part of Project Washoe since 1967. Washoe was the very first nonhuman animal to acquire a human language, American Sign Language for the Deaf (ASL).

Enjoy a gourmet animal-friendly dinner, live auction and inspiring presentation! Click here to learn more.

Ticket Information:

$95 Individual - Admittance for one to Roger Fouts presentation, auction and dinner

$150 Select Individual - Admittance for one to all of the above, plus pre-event reception to meet Roger Fouts at 6:00 pm

Tickets can be purchased online or call PAWS Development Office 425.787.2500 x261 or x262.

Wildlife Release tally: January 28th to February 17th, 2003

1 Virginia Opossum
1 Glaucous-winged Gull
1 Red-tailed Hawk
1 Herring Gull
2 Thayer's Gulls
2 Rock Pigeons
1 House Finch


Wildlife Release tally: 2004
33 animals

All rights reserved. 2004 Progressive Animal Welfare Society