Celebrating the wildlife releases of the PAWS Wildlife Center
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by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist
In March of 2002, I was asked by Richard Huffman (then PAWS Communication Director) to write a short article for a new, wildlife-focused email newsletter that he was developing. I had, up to that time, been sending out weekly email release updates to PAWS staff, and the updates often included written, firsthand accounts of releases and/or wildlife photos. Richard wished to expose a broader audience to those release stories, and to the work of the PAWS Wildlife Center in general. It was with this goal in mind that he was creating the newsletter. It sounded like an excellent idea to me, so I obliged with a 500-word essay titled "Different Seasons, Different Challenges", and on April 10th, 2002 the first PAWS "Wild Again" was released into the "wild"… also known as the Internet.
You are currently reading issue number 52 of "Wild Again", which means it has been two full years since this biweekly newsletter was launched. The 52 issues released so far have been filled with more than 48,000 words, 140 wildlife photos (representing 63 different species), 14 video clips, 33 firsthand accounts of wildlife releases, one alien abduction analogy, and, if I recall correctly, a bad pun or two. If you have missed any of the past issues and would like to read them, they are all available for viewing in the PAWS Email Network archives at: www.paws.org/about/emailnetwork/archive. If you missed the first issue, however, it has been reprinted below for your enjoyment.
Starting with his head, a double-crested cormorant receives a physical examination at the PAWS wildlife center.
First printed on April 10th, 2002
Every fall, thousands of Snow Geese migrate south from their arctic breeding grounds to the Skagit Refuge and Flats in Southwestern Skagit County. There, in the company of swans, ducks and other migratory and resident bird species, they pass the winter months. As spring approaches, they make the return trip north to mate and raise their young on the arctic tundra. Waterfowl are by no means the only animals following these regular patterns of seasonal movement. Many species of songbirds, raptors and seabirds are also migrating into and out of the state with the changing of the seasons, and some resident bird and mammal species show altitudinal movement associated with snowfall and subsequent melt. The movement pattern of each species has evolved over thousands of years, and seems to provide the animals with a way to cope with ever-changing climatic conditions.
This red fox is currently being treated for head trauma at PAWS.
As the animals in the state increase their activity in spring, so does the PAWS Wildlife Department. Spring marks the beginning of breeding season for many species, and that means orphaned babies are soon to follow. Greater than 80% of all animals the PAWS Wildlife Department receives arrive between April and September, and the majority of these are babies. The babies are time and labor intensive, requiring hand feeding, cage cleaning and often very specialized care. In preparation for the influx of babies, new volunteer shifts are added, seasonal employees are hired and seabird caging is moved out and replaced with baby bird and mammal caging. As summer progresses, different species hatch their clutches or give birth to their litters and the staff and volunteers in the PAWS Wildlife Department continue to feed and care for an ever-changing array of hungry young animals.
As summer progresses towards fall, more and more of the babies reach the age of independence and are released back to the wild. Even before the last of the summer babies is released, however, the PAWS Wildlife Department staff are preparing for the coming fall and winter. As the Snow Geese return to the Skagit Flats with their young-of-the-year in tow, the PAWS Wildlife Department is once again ready for the fall/winter windstorm season and the inevitable challenges it will bring.
Wildlife Release tally: March 3rd to March 23rd, 2004
Wildlife Release tally: 2004
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