PAWS Wild Again


March 15th, 2006   
Inspiring stories about the PAWS Wildlife Center and the animals we serve

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Lynnwood WA, 98046

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Kevin Mack

A Snowy Day at the Skagit Refuge
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

On 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.

poised to leave carriers
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.

poised to leave carriers
This close-up gives a good look at the Snowy Owl’s striking yellow eyes.

raccoon in branches
Dr. John Huckabee examines the Snowy Owl’s eyes shortly after he is admitted.

raccoon in water
- In this closeup, you can see a minor injury on the owl’s nictitating membrane (third eyelid).

raccoon in foliage
Continuing with the physical exam, Dr. Huckabee takes a look in the Snowy Owl’s mouth.

He then checked the left wing...

four raccoons on roadway
...and right wing for injuries.

the release site
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.

the release site
It 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 for release.

the release site
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 set free.

the release site
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.

the release site
He flew close to the ground at first...

the release site
...and then gained altitude as he flew out over the refuge.

the release site
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.

Twelve 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, 2006

  • Virginia Opossum- 9
  • Snowy Owl- 1
  • Horned Grebe- 1
  • Varied Thrush- 1

27 wild animals have been released since the beginning of 2006.
Thanks to all of you for helping to make these releases possible!

All rights reserved. 2006 Progressive Animal Welfare Society

A 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.