Snowy Day at the Skagit Refuge
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist
December 27th, a very special patient arrived at the PAWS Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. He
had started his day with a morning swim off of Pier 23 at the Port of Tacoma. The only problem
was, he wasn’t a very strong swimmer. Lucky for him, a concerned citizen had spotted his
brilliant white feathers bobbing at the water’s surface and had fished him out of the sound.
It must have been quite a surprise to find a Snowy Owl in such a predicament. In most years
you would be hard pressed to find this species in the Puget Sound area. But every so often
something changes in the owl’s northern home that causes some individuals to move south.
It isn’t completely clear whether this movement is due to an increase in their population,
decrease in prey availability, change in weather patterns, or some other factor, but one thing
is for certain…people are very excited to see the Snowy Owls whenever they do make an appearance.
The owl certainly caused some excitement for PAWS staff and volunteers when he arrived at the
wildlife center. Although we wished we could have encountered him in different circumstances,
we were thrilled to have the opportunity to help him heal and return home. The following photos
tell his story.
Meet Snowy Owl 052977. In addition to having wet feathers, the
owl had blood in his mouth, a bit of blood in each eye, and signs
of head trauma. He may have been struck by a vehicle before he
ended up in Puget Sound.
This close-up gives a good look at the Snowy Owl’s striking
Dr. John Huckabee examines the Snowy Owl’s eyes shortly
after he is admitted.
- In this closeup, you can see
a minor injury on the owl’s nictitating membrane
Continuing with the physical exam, Dr. Huckabee takes a look
in the Snowy Owl’s mouth.
He then checked the left wing...
...and right wing for injuries.
The owl was thoroughly inspected from head
to toe. No broken bones were found, but the bird
did have a small laceration on his left wing. The
wound was cleaned and dressed, and the bird was started
on medication for his head trauma.
took several weeks for the owl to regain his strength, but he was
eventually moved into a large flight cage so he could condition himself
At first, he tired quickly whenever he
would make a short flight. After several more weeks,
he had recovered his stamina and was ready to be
On February 18 th, the Snowy Owl was
fitted with a federal band and released at the
Skagit Wildlife Refuge near Conway. When the carrier
door was opened, he wasted no time in exiting.
He flew close to the ground at first...
...and then gained altitude as he
flew out over the refuge.
After an impressive 250 yard flight, he
landed on a large drift log. He was still sitting
there when we left, taking in his new surroundings
and readjusting to a world without walls.
animals were released between February 11th and
February 28th, 2006. Thanks to all of you for helping
to make these releases possible!
Wildlife Releases: February 11 - February 28,
- Virginia Opossum- 9
- Snowy Owl- 1
- Horned Grebe- 1
- Varied Thrush- 1
wild animals have been released since the beginning
Thanks to all of you for helping to make these releases possible!
rights reserved. ©2006 Progressive Animal
Northwest leader in protecting animals since
1967, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society
(PAWS) shelters homeless animals, rehabilitates
injured and orphaned wildlife, and empowers
people to demonstrate compassion and respect
for animals in their daily lives.