PAWS Magazine


Issue 53, Winter 2002


PAWS Wildlife Department involved in West Nile

Wildlife rehabilitators and veterinarians are frequently on the front line when it comes to wildlife disease and mortality events because their work brings them into contact with damaged wild animals. The PAWS Wildlife Department staff is frequently involved in research projects with a diverse group of partners. One project that PAWS has been a part of since 2000 recently received media attention when the first case of West Nile virus was detected in Washington state in a raven collected in Pend Oreille County.

The West Nile virus is a zoonotic disease (one that can be transmitted to people by animals) that is spreading across North America. PAWS has been assisting the Washington State Department of Health, (in conjunction with the National Wildlife Health Laboratories, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) with the surveillance of crows and other corvids. Some of the birds that have come to the PAWS Wildlife Center with signs of neurological impairment are sent for testing for West Nile virus.

The Washington State Health Department Web site at, offers good information about West Nile virus in Washington. If you have questions about affected birds, contact your local health department, whose contact information you can locate at the Web site above.

PAWS Wildlife Department has been involved in the following projects as well:

  • Chromosomal sexing of bird species.
  • American Bird Conservancy’s Avian Incident Monitoring System/Avian Pesticide Incident Network.
  • University of Washington Fisheries Department’s common murre study.
  • Lyme disease and zoonotic bacteria in seabirds study at Humboldt State University in California.
  • University of California at Davis’ raccoon parasite study.

The Wildlife Department staff have also conducted post-release research studies using radio telemetry to monitor the movements and survival of animals (e.g., black bears, bald eagles, bobcats, beaver, and bats) that have been returned to the wild. In-house investigations at the Center include monitoring the effects of different diets on different species. The PAWS Wildlife Center staff also continues to expand its skills and understanding of veterinary medical techniques, rehabilitation care techniques, animal housing criteria, and other aspects of wildlife care.

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