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PAWS Mailing Address:
PO Box 1037
Lynnwood WA, 98046

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

                                                                                                April 20th, 2005
Kevin Mack

The Lint Trap
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

Occasionally, the PAWS Wildlife Department receives a wild animal that has been transported hundreds of miles to arrive in our care. The animal may have endured amazing hardships, and survived incredibly traumatic injuries, and it may have passed through many different hands before finally arriving at our door. Once in our care, the animal may undergo days, weeks, or even months of intensive rehabilitation in an effort to restore the animal to full health and function. Dozens of staff members and volunteers may be involved in the rehabilitation process; all of them focused on the goal of restoring this one individual wild life.
Long-toed Salamander
Completely encased in lint, the Long-toed
Salamander soaks in pond water.
The story of the animal's injury and eventual restoration can be inspiring to read, and may help raise awareness of the struggles that wild creatures must endure in a human dominated world. Then again, sometimes an animal finds itself in an unusual situation locally. They don't travel far to arrive at our center, and their struggles are the result of seemingly unremarkable events, but their lives are threatened none-the-less. They only spend a short time in care, and it's possible that only one or two people are involved in their rehabilitation process. Although not exactly epic, these stories can illustrate that even seemingly benign things can pose a very real threat to wildlife. This is one such story.

At 8:15 am on April 8th, Wildlife Rehabilitator Corrie Hines entered my office with a washcloth in her hands. Corrie asked, "What is this, and why was it in our basement?" Upon first glance, I saw what appeared to be a small, fuzzy tail sticking out of the washcloth, and for a moment I thought that Corrie might have captured a shrew. As I uncovered the animal, however, it became immediately clear that the fur coat this animal was wearing did not belong to it.
Long-toed Salamander
After the lint was removed, the salamander
was still somewhat dehydrated.
The creature I was looking at bore the unmistakable outline of a salamander, although he was considerably more furry than one would expect for an animal known for it's smooth, moist skin. The "fur" that the salamander was wearing was lint that he had picked up in the wildlife center's basement laundry room. The lint had become attached to his moist skin and was now forming a dry cocoon that was causing him to rapidly dehydrate. The salamander could barely move and was in serious need of help. I feel fortunate in that I was able to provide him with the help he needed.

After grabbing a plastic container from the wildlife center kitchen, I partially filled it with water from the pond that is on the PAWS property. Tap water contains chlorine, fluoride, and other chemicals that might be hazardous to amphibians, so the pond water was less likely to irritate the salamander's skin. After soaking the salamander in the shallow dish of pond water for several minutes, the lint began to loosen it's grip on his body. Using Q-tips, I carefully peeled the lint away. The lint rolled off like a sock and revealed a somewhat dry, disoriented (well, as far as I could tell he was disoriented) Long-toed Salamander.

Long-toed Salamander
Thirty minutes later, the salamander was well-
hydrated and becoming active.
I left the salamander in the shallow water for about 30 minutes while I went and captured a Canada Goose for release. When I returned to check on him, the little amphibian looked much better. His skin had regained a nice, shiny appearance, he had filled out a bit as he had absorbed some of the pond water. He was also moving around as if he was ready to be free of his plastic prison. I was happy to oblige.

Although I try to release animals as closely as possible to where they were found, I figured the little Long-toed Salamander would prefer not to be returned to his point of origin in the wildlife center laundry room. Instead I took him to a large brush pile on PAWS property about 100 yards from the wildlife center's basement door. I placed the plastic container on the ground and tilted it so the salamander could exit more easily. He crawled to the edge of the container and looked out at the damp leaf litter that was laid out before him. There he paused for quite some time. As he sat there, it was impossible to determine what type of information he was processing as he decided what to do next.
Long-toed Salamander
Fully recovered, the salamander is released into
an appropriately damp home.
He simply sat motionless and expressionless as if he was a statue. Suddenly, something clicked and he set his body in motion. He crawled forward deliberately and headed straight for the damp leaves in front of him. The last thing I saw was a dark tail with a yellow stripe slowly disappearing beneath a reddish-brown leaf.

The Long-toed Salamander was only in PAWS care for a total of 50 minutes. His travel distance from his point of origin was about 40 feet, and his travel distance to his release site was about 100 yards. His injury was not the result of a dramatic event like a car collision, cat attack, or gunshot wound. He was simply a small, damp-skinned wild animal that was nearly killed in an unfortunate encounter with lint. Dramatic or not, his situation really was a matter of life or death, and like thousands of wild animals before him, the Long-toed Salamander received the lifesaving care he needed at the PAWS Wildlife Center.

Wild animals released between April 1st and April 19th, 2005:

2 Northern flickers
1 Cooper's Hawk
1 Long-toed Salamander
1 Canada Goose
1 Wood Duck
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Rock Pigeon
2 Eastern Cottontails
1 Varied Thrush
1 American Robin
1 Bufflehead

49 wild animals have been released since the beginning of 2005.

      All rights reserved. 2005 Progressive Animal Welfare Society