Wednesday, November 17th, 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

Go Fly A Kite... But Be Careful!
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

When you think about potential dangers to wildlife, you usually think of things like oil spills, habitat destruction, pesticides, domestic cats and dogs, and intentional harm by humans. Automobiles are another, very obvious threat to wildlife, as Barred Owl 04-3512 from the last edition of Wild Again can attest. But not all threats to wildlife are immediately obvious. It requires no great stretch of the imagination to predict that thousands of 2,000+ pound objects moving around at high speed might

Barred Owl

Barred Owl 04-4439 on the day of his arrival. Note the kite string dangling from his left wing.

conceivably harm wildlife, but how many people would suspect that there is inherent danger posed to wildlife by, say, kite flying? Although kite flying is not likely to jump to the top of the list of dangers to wildlife in the near (or distant) future, just two weeks after releasing Barred Owl 04-3512, the PAWS Wildlife Center received another Barred Owl that was involved in what can best be described as a kite related incident.

Barred Owls frequently hang out in Seattle parks, but most of them only "hang" in the figurative sense. On November 6th, 2004, one Barred Owl was hanging out in Seattle's Magnuson Park in a very literal sense. He was dangling by his left wing, which was entangled in something that was securely affixed to the branch above him. Magnuson Park is popular among kite flyers. As is inevitable with kite flying, occasionally someone loses control of their kite and crashes it "Charlie Brown-style" into one of the many kite eating trees that inhabit the park grounds. Depending on the age of the kite flyer, cursing may ensue, followed by a futile attempt to pull the kite down from the tree.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl 04-4439 relaxes in a string-free environment.

The end results are usually a torn kite lodged at the top of the tree, a tangle of kite string with a broken end hanging down below it, and a disgruntled former kite flyer. Although wildlife might feel threatened by the disgruntled former kite flyer, it is the tangle of string that they leave behind that poses the real threat. Birds have difficulty seeing it and, as was the case with the dangling Barred Owl, they can sometimes become trapped by it.

As the Barred Owl struggled in vain to free himself from the kite string, he drew the attention of park visitors. He was cut down from the tree, but his primary feathers were still tightly wound in string. After a quick stop at Seattle Animal Control, he was transported to the PAWS Wildlife Center where he was entered into the database as case #04-4439.

Upon admission, Barred Owl 04-4439 was bright and alert. PAWS Wildlife rehabilitators removed the remaining kite string, taking care not to damage the owl's feathers in the process. The bird was slightly dehydrated, and a little sore, but otherwise in good health. The only abnormality that was found during the owl's initial examination was a piece of masking tape with the name "Bob" written on it.

Barred Owl

The owl bursts out of the carrier and heads for the nearby trees.

The tape was attached to the bird's foot. Whether this was the name of the person who found the owl, the name of the person who owned the kite, or someone's suggested name for the bird we will never know. Out of respect for their wildness, we don't name the animals that are under care at the PAWS Wildlife Center, but I must admit "Bob the Barred Owl" has a certain ring to it.

For two days following his admission, Barred Owl 04-4439 had a slight droop in his left wing. The wing had been strained during his ordeal, but the soreness quickly subsided and he began to hold it normally again. On November 10th the owl was placed in an outside flight pen to allow him to work out any remaining stiffness in his wing. After two days in the flight pen, he was back to full function, and ready for release.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl 04-4439 quickly gets his bearings before disappearing into the night.

I returned Barred Owl 04-4439 to Magnuson Park at dusk on November 12th. I chose to release him in a stand of trees in the southwest corner of the park not only because it provided good habitat, but also because there were no kite flying areas nearby. PAWS Wildlife Volunteer Manager Lauren Glickman opened the transport carrier and the owl burst out, leaving his identity as case #04-4439, and possibly as "Bob", behind. He weaved through a thick clump of branches and landed gently on a high branch in an alder tree. Possibly due to the fact that he had only been in captivity for seven days, his transition back to the wild seemed to happen with a relative ease. After sitting on the branch for only a few moments, the Barred Owl appeared to project an air of confidence as he flew deeper into the dark patch of woods and disappeared from sight.

Wildlife Release tally: October 27th to November 16th, 2004

17 Eastern Gray Squirrels
1 Red-tailed Hawk
4 Black-tailed Deer
1 Varied Thrush
5 Northern Flying Squirrels
1 Barred Owl
1 American Robin
1 Rock Pigeon

Wildlife Release tally: 2004
1051 animals

All rights reserved. 2004 Progressive Animal Welfare Society