In 1981, a PAWS employee named Curt Clumpner had a “wild” idea. Why not create a wildlife rescue on the grounds of PAWS’ campus in Lynnwood? Clumpner and his small but determined group of volunteers struck a deal. In exchange for some help around the grounds during the week (along with a few overnight security shifts), PAWS agreed, and the group set up shop in a garage behind the Companion Animal Shelter. The center was named HOWL, an acronym for “Help Our Wildlife,” and treated more than 200 wildlife patients in that first year.
Above: Founders of HOWL celebrate the grand opening og the Elsie Grismore Wildlife Hospital
With plenty of hard work and dedication, that small garage eventually grew into PAWS Wildlife Center. Today it’s an internationally recognized wildlife rehabilitation program that has cared for more than 250 species of wild animals, while providing training and practical experience for the wildlife rehabilitators and veterinarians of the future. Today, roughly half of our 7.5 acre campus in Lynnwood is occupied by PAWS Wildlife Center, serving about 3,000 wild animals every year. At the heart of PAWS’ wildlife operation is the Elsie Grismore Wildlife Hospital. Named after one of HOWL’s very first benefactors, the hospital opened in 1989 with one veterinarian. Thirty years later, we employ a full medical team consisting of one fulltime and one part-time veterinarian, two veterinary technicians, four wildlife rehabilitators, a naturalist along with several other skilled staff members and volunteers. PAWS Wildlife Center is now a wildlife version of a trauma hospital, featuring an examination room, a surgical suite, a small laboratory, and radiograph facilities. Today’s hospital is light years beyond its humble beginnings in the shelter garage.
PAWS Wildlife Center has become one of the few facilities in the country to offer a variety of wildlife training programs. Here, students learn about wildlife rehabilitation, medicine and conservation. In 1997 we launched our now internationally-recognized wildlife veterinary medicine extern program, giving students a hands-on experience in wildlife care. The program is so popular it has a waiting list of more than two years.
Above: Emergency care is the priority at PAWS Wildlife Center. Here, our veterinary team performs a procedure in the surgery suite.
Although we’ve cared for hundreds of different species, PAWS has become well-known for our work with Black Bears. We rehabilitated and released our first cub in 1986, and in the 30 years that followed, 71 more have come through our doors. (That includes the five cubs on this magazine’s cover!) Through the years, we have refined our hands-off rearing techniques to include daily enrichment and very high quality medical care. We’ve rehabilitated bears from Washington, Oregon and California.
As wildlife rehabilitation evolves, so does PAWS. We’re constantly incorporating new standards and information to improve the quality of care for the animals we treat. Through 2010, PAWS has cared for more than 107,000 injured, orphaned and sick wild animals. From a garage to a growing institution, it’s been a 30 year journey of passion, caring and dedication.
Veterinarian, Vet Tech and Wildlife Rehabilitation students take advantage of the unique education opportunities available at PAWS Wildlife Center. The PAWS extern program is one of only two in Washington State offering hands-on experience for those who have made wildlife care their career destination.