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PAWS Mailing Address:
PO Box 1037
Lynnwood WA, 98046

PAWS Street Address:
15305 44th Ave W
Lynnwood, WA 98087

                                                                                                  August 10, 2005
Kevin Mack

Wetland Restoration
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

Part of the challenge of releasing wild animals is getting them to an appropriate release site. Sometimes this requires special equipment like boats, helicopters, off-road vehicles, or snowmobiles. Other times, this just requires a willingness to be uncomfortable. Such was the case on Tuesday, August 2nd as I stood on top of a crushed, empty cardboard carrier in about 10 inches of water.
Green Herons
The herons were very young when they first
arrived at PAWS. They readily ate the bits
of fish that were offered to them.
My hiking boots were already full of water, so the carrier was more to prevent me from sinking into the mud than it was to keep me dry. I thought about the rubber boots I had accidentally left sitting under my desk back at PAWS. I let the thought go and embraced the feeling of standing ankle-deep in a wetland. It certainly gave me a more intimate familiarity with the preferred home of the beings I was about to release. Still, I felt a bit guilty about not telling PAWS Webmaster and Multimedia Specialist Matt Brown that he might want to bring along a pair of boots. At the time, he was standing close by setting up a video camera, and his tennis shoe clad feet were only partially visible in the soggy muck.

To Matt's credit, he remained in high spirits, as did the two King County Parks seasonal staff members who were in attendance. The four of us had just climbed over two fences, and marched about 100 yards across ground that varied from wet to completely underwater.
Green Herons
In just a few short weeks they
had grown in nearly all of their
feathers, and they were moved
to a larger, outdoor cage.
We had stopped once at the foot of a heavily wooded slope to release a snowshoe hare from the carrier on which I was now standing. The hare had darted into a patch of brambles, circled back past our feet and, realizing his error, darted into the bramble patch again. After sitting for a second or two, he disappeared upslope. We had continued on past the rabbit release site toward a stand of cottonwoods that I had chosen as our destination, but we stopped short of that goal when I took a step and found myself nearly knee-deep in water. It was at that point that I dropped the empty carrier into a slightly shallower pool nearby, and stepped onto it declaring that we had found our release site.

There was really no solid ground on which to set my release carriers, so I simply held the first one out in front of me and opened it. A Green Heron burst forth, and veered off to my right, diving into the cover of a nearby patch of low alders. After getting situated on a branch, he stretched his neck straight up and blended perfectly with his surroundings. Seeing him in his natural environment, it was easy to understand how the work crew that was clearing brush around a Sammamish retention pond on July 5th had overlooked him and his four siblings. Two of his siblings had perished when their nest was destroyed, and the other two now sat in their release carrier waiting to experience the same freedom that their former nestmate was now enjoying. The three surviving herons had spent the last month at PAWS feasting on smelt, tadpoles, and other heron delicacies. They grew up quickly, and after proving both their flying and foraging skills in a pre-release cage, they were ready to live the wild life they deserve.

I held the second carrier out and opened it. One of the two herons contained within hopped out and perched on the edge of the box. Since I was holding the box up in the air, it wasn't entirely stable.
Green Herons
One of the herons attempts to look
inconspicuous at his release.
After performing a wobbly balancing act for a second or two, the heron flew off to my left and took cover behind a large Skunk Cabbage. Shortly after she landed, the heron tentatively stretched her neck up to peer at us from behind the thick leaves of the cabbage. If I hadn't known she was there, I likely would have overlooked her as her long neck blended perfectly with the bulrushes and grasses around her. I turned back to the carrier as there was still one bird that had yet to emerge. He seemed to be having difficulty, so I decided to give him a little help.

The final heron was attempting to fly out of the box, but it was too narrow for him to get any lift. His siblings had both jumped to clear the lip of the carrier, but he seemed less inclined to do so. As I reached in to lift him out, I felt his long toes close around my fingers. In his disorientation, he stayed on my hand for a few seconds after I lifted him out of the box. He peered in the direction of the alder bushes, and after I made an abrupt movement to remind him that he was on an unsafe perch, he flew a path almost identical to that of the first heron that was released. His landing in the alder was not exactly graceful, but he moved effortlessly through the thick brush once he had gained a perch. As he disappeared, his siblings could still be seen standing frozen to our left and right. It was clear that they were nervously awaiting our next move. I'm sure it came as a huge relief to them when we turned, and on squishing shoes walked back out of the wetland the same way we had come in.

"Wild Things" Need Your Help!
The PAWS Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has once again formed "Team Wild Things" to raise money for this year's PAWSwalk. Last year, the "Wild Things" raised more than $5,400 for the animals, and we would love to beat that total this year. With only 4 weeks left until the September 10th event, we still have a long way to go to reach our goal.

If you would like to make a pledge to support the "Wild Things", or if you would like to join the team and walk with us, please click here:

PAWSwalk benefits all of the animals that PAWS cares for through sponsorships, registrations and pledges.

To those of you who have already made a pledge, thank you so much!

Wild animals released between July 27 and August 9, 2005:

3 Virginia Opossums
3 Townsend's Chipmunks
4 Eastern Cottontails
4 American Crows
2 Band-tailed Pigeons
7 Mallards
1 Northern Flicker
1 Vaux Swift
1 Red-tailed Hawk
4 Green Herons
1 Snowshoe Hare
5 Violet-green Swallows
4 Barn Swallows
2 Tree Swallows
2 Cliff Swallows
2 Chestnut-backed Chickadees
4 Steller's Jays
10 American Robins

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

      All rights reserved. 2005 Progressive Animal Welfare Society