Wednesday, December 15th, 2004

Wild Again

Celebrating the wildlife releases of the PAWS Wildlife Center

PAWS Wildlife

Injured Baby Animal step by step guide

PAWS Home Page

Become a member

Donate to PAWS

Volunteer with PAWS

Contact PAWS

Report Animal Cruelty

PAWS Events Calendar

Wild Again Back Issues

Please direct questions or comments to To unsubscribe, or subscribe to additional newsletters, please click here. If PAWS Wild Again was forwarded to you and you would like to subscribe, click here. Wild Again and other PAWS services rely entirely on your donations. Please give to PAWS.

PAWS Mailing Address:
PO Box 1037
Lynnwood WA, 98046

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

Kevin Mack

The Choice
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

She first appeared sometime last August. I discovered her early in the morning, but I knew she had spent most of the previous night hanging out in the doorway to my apartment. I knew this because at the time I was wearing the result of her night’s labor; a fine mesh of silk that caught on my forehead as I walked out the door. As sleepy as I was, the unexpected acquisition of a hairnet jolted me awake and I turned around quickly to see a fairly large, plump spider scrambling up the tattered remnants of her web. Upon reaching the relative safety of the doorframe, she tucked her legs in tight to her body and attempted to look as inconspicuous as possible. Looking at her, I felt a pang of guilt for having unwittingly destroyed what must have taken her a lot of time and energy to create. I’m glad that my neighbor did not come out of his apartment at that moment in time. If he had, he would have been confronted by a man of questionable sanity, standing outside of his apartment issuing a formal apology to his door.

Feeling the vibrations

Resting above my doorway, the spider waits for the vibrations of prey trapped in her web.

I am not always the fastest learner, so the scene described above repeated itself the following two mornings. To her credit, the spider was extremely patient with me during my learning period, and every time my big, sleepy head destroyed her web, she simply built a new one. In the end, her patience paid off.

On the fourth day, something finally clicked in my brain. As I opened the door, a memory was triggered and I stopped in my tracks. Every morning before that one, I had been running on automatic: get up, get ready for work, put on shoes, open door, walk outside, turn around and lock door, walk to car- all done without a conscious thought. But I had been shocked into consciousness the previous three mornings when I had encountered something that did not figure into that series of events. I can’t say whether it was the actual shock of walking through a spider web three days in a row, or the humbling experience of repeatedly apologizing to the spider that owned the web, but my brain had finally accepted that the old routine no longer applied. At that point, I had several choices to consider. I could ignore my realization and continue with the same routine, I could remove the living obstacle to my routine, or I could change my routine. I chose to change my routine.

The spider wasn’t asking me for much. She simply wanted to use part of the same space that I use. It didn’t require a huge change in my behavior to accommodate her. My new routine was very similar to the old one, but with one key difference: Between the steps “open door” and “walk outside”, I added a new step-- "duck".


The spider retreats as the giant head that destroyed her web approaches.

It was a little awkward at first, hunching over whenever I went in or out of my apartment, and I’m sure some people would consider it a major inconvenience, but it eventually became as automatic as the rest of the routine. As the months passed, visiting guests were asked to mimic the behavior, and it became a normal part of their routine. The spider thrived, and as was apparent from looking at her web, prevented many mosquitoes, gnats, and flies from entering my apartment. The spider web covering most of the upper right quadrant of my doorway became my new norm, just as an unobstructed doorway had been the norm before the spider arrived. I wasn’t able to truly appreciate this fact until the day I came home and she was gone.

Upon returning from a holiday get together in Olympia, I found an empty web in my doorway. In the past, I had often seen the spider sitting on the doorframe, resting one sensitive leg on a strand of web, and waiting for the telltale vibration of trapped prey. A quick scan of the doorframe revealed that she was nowhere to be found. I should have felt relieved; after many months, I would once again be able to pass through my doorway without stooping down to do so. But that’s not at all how I felt. Instead, I felt a sense of loss. I had come to truly enjoy the presence of that tiny being, and the spark of life that she brought to my doorway. Even today, nearly three weeks after she disappeared, I find myself ducking under the tattered remnants of her web rather than taking them down.

We receive hundreds of calls at PAWS from members of the public who are having conflicts with wildlife on their property. Metaphorically speaking, these callers have just acquired a spider web hairnet and they are weighing their options. Their choices are the same as mine were with the spider; They can try to ignore what is happening and continue with their routine, they can remove the living obstacle to their routine, or they can change their routine to allow for the presence of the animal involved. Right now, the second option, destroying or removing the animal seems to be the most widely used. I think it would be a far better world, both for humans and their wild neighbors, if when faced with the metaphorical spider web in the doorway more people would find their own way to duck.

Wildlife Release tally: December 1st to January 4th, 2005

1 Canada Goose
1 Raccoon
1 Bald Eagle
2 Rock Pigeons
1 Red-tailed Hawk
1 Mallard
1 House Finch
2 Steller's Jay
1 Band-tailed Pigeon
1 Canada Goose
1 Varied Thrush

Wildlife Release tally: 2004
1082 animals

Wildlife Release tally: 2005
5 animals

All rights reserved. 2005 Progressive Animal Welfare Society