PAWS Magazine


Issue 53, Winter 2002


Unusual species at the PAWS Wildlife Center

Because its preferred habitat consists of high sub-alpine meadows and rocky talus slopes, the hoary marmot is an animal that is rarely received by the PAWS Wildlife Center. One young and curious marmot, however, ended up in PAWS’ care after taking an unplanned trip to north Seattle.

On August 9th, PAWS received reports that an uninjured, but noticeably frightened and confused marmot had been spotted in a Ballard neighborhood. One caller reported that he had seen the marmot eating grass and digging near the road, while another reported that he had approached the marmot only to watch it run under a parked truck and climb up into the engine compartment. It was assumed that this was the same behavior that had led to the animal’s accidental relocation. Perhaps a vehicle parked at one of the mountain passes or in an area such as Paradise at Mt. Rainier had seemed a cozy hiding place for the young marmot. He certainly could not have predicted that his chosen retreat would move under its own power, carrying him along with it.

On August 10th, three concerned cit-izens cornered and captured the marmot and transported him to PAWS. Understandably upset by another unplanned relocation, the marmot’s alarm calls could be heard emanating loudly from the exam room. A physical examination showed that the marmot was in good health, but quite hungry after his attempt to survive on the sparse grasses that the Ballard median strips provided. After a four-day stay at the PAWS Wildlife Center, the marmot was returned to suitable habitat in the Cascade Mountains. It was a long, bumpy ride to the release site, where the marmot sampled some of the local vegetation before disappearing down a steep, rock-strewn slope.

This marmot is not the only animal to inadvertently set himself up for unplanned travel. PAWS has in past seasons received a variety of non-native patients. For example, a Red-tailed tropic bird, a Tufted puffin, and both a Black-footed and a Laysan albatross arrived on large cargo ships, and a Pacific rattlesnake made its way here on a truck from eastern Washington.

So, the next time you drive your vehicle into a natural area, it might be wise to check for unexpected passengers before returning home!

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