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PAWS Mailing Address:
PO Box 1037
Lynnwood WA, 98046

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

November 2006   

Kevin Mack

Fall Freedom
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

The month of October is always a busy time at the PAWS Wildlife Center, but it is exactly the kind of busyness one hopes for in this line of work. The arrival of fall means that many of the orphaned patients that we received during the spring and summer months have grown up enough to fend for themselves. This is especially true for some of the larger, mammalian patients with which we work. This October was no different, and releases occurred at a steady pace throughout the month. The following photographs give you the opportunity to join us on four of these exciting releases.

Raccoon Release October 10, 2006

On Tuesday, October 10th, several of the orphaned Raccoons that were raised at PAWS over the summer were released on King County Parks land in South King County. Wary at first, the Raccoons quickly gave in to their curious nature and began to explore their new homes with great enthusiasm.

When they arrived at the center in the spring, most of the orphaned Raccoons weighed less than a pound. At release, each Raccoon weighed ten pounds or more. It takes a lot of effort to get a carrier containing three or four Raccoons to their release site. Here, volunteer Katie Lloyd wheels a carrier containing three Raccoons down a trail towards their new home. She is followed by Geraldine of King County Parks, and PAWS volunteers Daniel Willard and Jamie Stevens.

Raccoons tend to give their surroundings a thorough assessment before giving up the safety of their transport carrier. This Raccoon was attempting to assess the intentions of the humans watching him from a distance.

Many of the Raccoons climbed on top of the carrier to get a better view, or to catch scent more effectively before they began to explore.

Eventually, the curiosity became overwhelming. Raccoons gather much of their information about the world through their sensitive forepaws. With so many new things to touch, it is only a matter of time before the Raccoons leave the carrier and put those sensory nerves in their paws to good use. Here a Raccoon prepares to lay her paws on an interesting plant.

The Raccoons quickly gained confidence and left the carrier behind. Here, two Raccoons that were just released climb on a downed tree over a small stream channel. Moments before, they were moving along in water up to their chest, pawing at the stream bottom and searching for insect larvae, fish, frogs and other edible morsels.

Ten Raccoons total were released on October 10th. They were divided into three groups (litters), and released at different locations to prevent overcrowding. These four Raccoons were released on the banks of the Green River. In this photo, two of them stare at the river with interest after having seen a large salmon jump.

Black–tailed Deer Release October 18, 2006

On Wednesday, October 18th, six Black-tailed Deer fawns raised by PAWS were released. Like the Raccoons, the deer were released with the gracious assistance of the King County Parks Department. Their new home was a beautiful piece of wooded property located east of Maple Valley.

From left to right: wildlife interns Sarah Couck, Laurel Holloway, and wildlife rehabilitator Emily Livengood prepare to open the doors to three release boxes. Next to them, but not pictured are wildlife veterinary technician Jean Leonhart, wildlife rehabilitator Candace Parker, and King County Parks employee Geraldine who are also preparing to open release boxes.

Some deer exited their carriers in a flash, while others were a bit more timid.

There always seems to be at least one deer at a release that is not immediately aware that he/she has been set free. Eventually, this deer did back out of the box and was pleasantly surprised by the forest around her.

One of the deer turned back to look at the humans on top of the release boxes, as if she was trying to comprehend their role in her sudden change in circumstances.

All six deer quickly formed a herd and disappeared into the forest. Here, their former caretakers watch them go.

Harbor Seal Release October 26, 2006

In late summer, PAWS received two young Harbor Seals for care. The first had been found in Edmonds. She was extremely thin and weak and had an infected wound on one of her flippers. She responded well to care, quickly recovered from her wound and began to put on weight.
The second seal was found near a fishing pier at Dash Point in Federal Way. He had fish hooks embedded in his mouth and wounds on his flippers. X-rays taken after his arrival also showed that he had swallowed fish hooks and fishing line. The fish hooks in the seal's mouth were removed at the wildlife center. In order to remove the hooks and line from the seal's digestive tract in the least invasive way possible, PAWS called on the VCA Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle (VSC). Dr. Polly Petersen of the Veterinary Specialty Center volunteered to remove the hooks and line using an endoscopic procedure. The procedure went very well, and the seal recovered quickly from all of his wounds.
The seals were housed in a pool together once their injuries healed, and by October 26th, both were strong, fat and healthy. The National Marine Fisheries Service instructed us to release the seals at the north end of Jetty Island in Everett. Kraig Hansen of Everett City Parks was kind enough to assist us in the release by providing boat transportation to the release site.

PAWS staff and supporters and Everett City Parks staff headed out in the boat to the seal release site.

In this photo, wildlife rehabilitator Heather Burnett watches as fellow wildlife rehabilitator Candace Parker opens the door to release the male seal. The seal looks longingly through the bars at the waters of Puget Sound.

PAWS and Everett Parks personnel waited excitedly for the seal to enter the water.

The seal inched toward the water. The dark, wet rings around his eyes indicated that he was still well-hydrated despite the period of time that had passed since he was placed in the transport carrier.

A wave moved over the platform that the seal was sitting on, and this prompted him to effortlessly slide into the water.

He set off to explore his new home.

The female seal was far more anxious to exit her carrier than was her former poolmate. As wildlife rehabilitator Emily Livengood was opening the carrier door, the seal pushed on it with one of her flippers.

She then quickly slid into the water.

The female seal resurfaced a few times near the boat.

She then swam away, took one look back, and then disappeared.

Raccoon Release October 27, 2006

The day after the two seals returned home, 13 more Raccoons were set free in central King County. Once again, the King County Parks Department was kind enough to help us both find appropriate release sites and assist with the release.

Uncertain of their fate the Raccoons looked out warily through bars of their release carriers before the release.

This female Raccoon inspected the top of her transport carrier thoroughly.

At one of the release sites, the Raccoons immediately started rooting around in the leaf litter. This individual found a bit to eat as he systematically felt around in the dead leaves.

Like kids set loose in a candy store, the Raccoons eagerly absorbed all of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures around them.

At times, as they felt around in the water or leaf litter, their eyes took on a distant look as if they were focusing only on what their paws were telling them.

They were very aware that they were being watched by humans, and they would freeze and stare anytime someone made a noise or movement.

Each group of Raccoons was released near a river, stream, or wetland, and most wasted little time getting their feet wet.

With her forepaws feeling around in the water, and her nose sniffing a nearby plant, a Raccoon gets lost in her senses.

The four raccoons released at this site disappeared into the tall grass along the river bank together.

The last group of Raccoons was released near a wetland not far from the middle fork of the Snohomish River.

After rooting around in leaf litter, they headed down a well-worn animal trail that ran beneath the brambles to the water's edge. One of them looked back, before disappearing in the fading light of dusk.

195 animals were returned to the wild between August 19 and October 30, 2006. Thanks to all of you for helping to make these releases possible!

Wildlife Releases: August 19 – October 30, 2006
  • Spotted Towhee – 2
  • Mallard – 10
  • American Robin – 6
  • American Crow – 3
  • European Starling – 2
  • Cedar Waxwing – 4
  • Glaucous –winged Gull – 7
  • American Goldfinch – 1
  • Brown –headed Cowbird – 1
  • Virginia Opossum – 14
  • Band –tailed Pigeon – 3
  • Eastern Cottontail – 11
  • Vaux’s Swift – 3
  • Steller’s Jay – 2
  • Yellow Warbler – 1
  • Barn Swallow – 1
  • Douglas Squirrel – 3
  • Snowshoe Hare – 1
  • Raccoon – 41
  • Northern Flying Squirrel – 3
  • Orange –crowned Warbler – 1
  • Fox Sparrow – 1
  • Red –breasted Sapsucker – 1
  • Northern Flicker – 2
  • Eastern Gray Squirrel – 45
  • Dark –eyed Junco – 3
  • Virginia Rail – 1
  • Rock Pigeon – 1
  • Big Brown Bat – 1
  • Horned Grebe – 1
  • Ruby –crowned Kinglet – 1
  • American Coot – 1
  • Black –capped Chickadee – 1
  • Western Grebe – 2
  • Black –tailed Deer – 6
  • Western Gull – 1
  • Northern Saw –whet Owl –1
  • Golden –crowned Kinglet – 1
  • Hermit Thrush – 1
  • Harbor Seal – 2
  • Barn Owl – 1
  • Cooper’s Hawk – 1

More than 619 wild animals have been released by PAWS since the beginning of 2006. Thanks to all of you for helping to make our lifesaving work 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.