Wednesday, May 5th, 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
Answering the Call for Help
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

If you were to spend a day answering the telephone in the PAWS Wildlife Center, you would quickly realize that our work with wildlife reaches far beyond the walls of the center. During the spring and summer, we may receive 50 or more calls per day, and many of them involve animals that we will never see firsthand. The calls are varied, to say the least, and you can never be sure what to expect when you pick up that phone. There are, however, a few categories into which calls can be broken down, and the four that are listed below should give you a good idea of the calls we typically receive.

Human/Wildlife Conflict

Many of the calls we receive come from people who are involved in some sort of conflict with wildlife in their area. The conflict may be a simple matter of perception, as when someone sees a raccoon pass through their yard and they become concerned for their pets and children, or it may involve a situation where wild animals are damaging plants or property. Whatever the situation, our goal when answering these calls is to find a solution that will meet the needs of both the caller and the animals involved. When handling these calls, PAWS staff and volunteers must be equal parts counselor, naturalist, and troubleshooter. They must address the caller's frustration, interpret the wild animal's behavior, and come up with a humane way to alleviate the conflict. Conflict calls are always interesting, and frequently challenging.

Two calls that I answered in the past week were perfect examples of typical wildlife conflict calls. The first came from a man who was upset because a woodpecker was drilling a large hole in the side of his house. I already knew the answer to my first question which was, "Do you by any chance have natural wood siding on your house?"


This infant Short-tailed Weasel is currently in care at the PAWS Wildlife Center.

The caller confirmed that he did indeed have natural wood siding. I explained that from a woodpecker's perspective, natural wood siding is only found on trees and, since it is now nesting season, this particular woodpecker probably thought she was building her nest cavity in the biggest hollow tree she had ever seen. I suggested that the caller hang a large sheet of thin plastic over the area in which the woodpecker was concentrating her efforts. With the wood covered up, the woodpecker would no longer recognize the house as a tree, and would likely move elsewhere. The plastic could be taken down in a month or so when woodpeckers are no longer building nests. I asked the man to call back if the problem persisted. He did not call back.

The other wildlife conflict call that I received came from a woman who was distressed by a bird that, from her perspective, kept trying to get into her house through a closed window. I gave her a description of an American Robin and asked if it sounded like the bird in question. She confirmed that the description was a good match. I then gave her a little information about territorial behavior in male American Robins, and told her that they will aggressively defend their nesting territories against intruders. In this case, the robin was not aware that the intruder in his territory was simply his own reflection in the window glass. He was not trying to get inside the house, he was unwittingly trying to drive himself out of his own territory. I suggested that she hang streamers or a windsock in front of the window to reduce reflection and obstruct the robin's view of himself. Again, I asked the caller to let us know if the problem persisted, but she has not called back. The robin is probably relieved that he finally drove off that persistent rival that seemed to know his every move.

These are but two examples of the countless conflict situations that we are presented with via phone here at PAWS. If you find yourself in conflict with a wild animal on your property, we may be able to help. Contact information for the PAWS Wildlife Center can be found at the end of this article.

Suspected Orphaned Animal


Here are two views of a hungry nestling robin currently in care at the PAWS Wildlife Center.

Another type of call that we regularly receive is the suspected orphan call. I say "suspected" because these calls often involve animals that are not truly orphans. They may be baby birds that are learning to fly, baby mammals that are hiding and waiting for their mother's return, or animals that have fallen out of the nest and simply need to be put back in. The challenge presented by these calls is determining which animals really do need our help. As breeding season for many species is now in full swing, you may come across a young wild animal in the near future. If you would like to be prepared for that possibility, I highly recommend reading the section of the PAWS website titled "What to do when you find a baby animal". It can be found at: Also, don't hesitate to call us here at the center if you need additional information.

Suspected Injured Animal

As with the suspected orphan calls, the animals involved in the suspected injured calls are not always in need of help. Again the challenge with these calls is to determine whether or not the animal needs to be brought in for treatment. Fortunately, it is much easier to determine whether or not an animal is injured than it is to determine whether or not an animal is orphaned. A good example of this is a call that I received last week about a Red-tailed Hawk. The caller suspected that the hawk was injured. She believed he was injured because he was standing on the ground in a field, and a half-dozen crows were dive-bombing him. I asked her to approach the hawk and call me back if he didn't fly away. She didn't call me back. Most likely the hawk had landed on the ground while chasing prey in the field, and had then been mobbed by the crows who were unhappy with the presence of a predator. The hawk was sitting on the ground because he knew he would be an even easier target for harassment once he was airborne. When the woman walked out into the field, both the crows and the hawk were frightened away by the large predator coming towards them. So in this case the animal that appeared to be injured was just exhibiting behavior with which the caller was not familiar. If you find a wild animal that is injured, or that you suspect has been injured, please give us a call.


The three categories listed above cover a large percentage of the calls that we receive, but we receive many miscellaneous calls as well. These may include general questions on wild animal behavior or identification, requests for information on our volunteer and other programs, requests for assistance with school projects, and a variety of other general inquiries.

Although we receive more than 4,500 animals each year at the wildlife center, we undoubtedly affect the lives of many more through these regular telephone interactions with the public. In some cases helping a wild animal is a complicated procedure, requiring medical knowledge, specialized equipment and months of care. In other cases helping a wild animal is as simple as picking up the telephone...

PAWS Wildlife Center Contact Information
Phone: 425-787-2500 ext. 854
On the web:
Mailing address: PO Box 1037, Lynnwood, WA 98046

Wildlife Release tally: April 21st to May 4th, 2004

9 Eastern Cottontails
1 American Robin
1 House Sparrow
1 Lincoln's Sparrow
1 Mallard
1 Western Screech Owl
1 Northern Saw-whet Owl

Wildlife Release tally: 2004
102 animals

All rights reserved. 2004 Progressive Animal Welfare Society