Celebrating the wildlife releases of the PAWS Wildlife Center
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by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist
At dusk on October 20th, PAWS Wildlife Facilities Caretaker Jim Green and I stood in a clearing in Seattle's Lincoln Park. An empty, medium-sized pet carrier with an open door sat on the ground to our left. Jim and I were both staring upwards, fixated on something in a tree about 20 feet away. Hikers and dog walkers on a nearby trail took curious glances in our direction, but none stopped to ask what we were looking at. This was probably for the best, as the Barred Owl that Jim and I were observing seemed nervous enough with just two people watching him. He split his time evenly between scanning his surroundings, and monitoring us to ensure that we weren't coming any closer. The owl's experience in captivity had made him less certain that his high perch was safely out of the reach of humans, but it was slowly dawning on him that something about his relationship with the two observers had changed. Jim and I stood still, giving him the space he needed.
The last time this Barred Owl had been in the Lincoln Park area was on August 11th. He was found, just outside the park, sitting on the curb along an adjacent road. He was very lethargic, apparently suffering from shock after having been hit by a car.
Wildlife Facilities Caretaker Jim Green, prepares to free Barred Owl 04-3512.
Barred Owl 04-3512 had perked up a bit by the time he arrived at PAWS. During his physical examination he was alert and responsive; a major improvement over the lethargic state in which he had been found. He appeared to be having difficulty using his right wing, and he reacted as if in pain when the wing was extended during the examination. No other abnormalities were found, so the owl was given fluids, and he was scheduled to be radiographed the following day.
Radiographs of Barred Owl 04-3512 taken on August 12th showed that he had not suffered any broken bones. The wing soreness was apparently the result of soft tissue injury that would most likely heal with cage rest. He did have another issue, however, that came to light when his eyes were examined by a PAWS Wildlife Veterinarian. Veterinary Ophthalmologist Tom Sullivan volunteered to come to PAWS the following day to assess the apparent abnormalities in the owl's eyes. Dr. Sullivan observed a small blood clot in Barred Owl 04-3512's left eye, and indications of trauma to the optic nerve. The damage was not severe, and Dr. Sullivan believed that the owl's eye, like his wing, would resolve with cage rest.
By September 22nd, the owl's injuries had resolved, and he was placed in a flight cage to allow him to exercise his formerly sore wing. He flew well, but he had several broken primary feathers that would need to be repaired before his release. The repair occurred on October 14th, after PAWS received another Barred Owl that died as a result of its injuries. Feathers from the dead owl were used to repair Barred Owl 04-3512's feathers in a process known as "imping". The procedure was a success, and Jim and I returned the owl to Lincoln Park the following week.
Barred Owl 04-3512 eyes his former captors warily.
The light was quickly fading, so Jim and I collected the empty carrier and turned to leave. We hadn't gone far when a powerful voice filled the forest. The unmistakable call of a Barred Owl rang out briefly, and then fell silent. Whether he was calling for others of his kind, expressing joy, or communicating some other message I will never know. I do know that the sound was joyful to my ears though, and as I left with a smile on my face, my mental response was, "Welcome home." Thanks for Supporting the "Wild Things"!
I want to thank all of you for supporting team "Wild Things" in this year's PAWSwalk. The event was a great success! Contributions from Wild Again readers helped the team surpass it's goal of raising $5,000. Our final team total was $5,540. Overall, PAWSwalk raised more than $100,000 to support PAWS programs. We could not have done it without you!
Wildlife Release tally: October 16th to October 26th, 2004
Wildlife Release tally: 2004
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