PAWS Magazine

Issue 63, Spring 2006

Caution: Dangers Ahead (Part One)

Help Protect Wildlife from the Hazards of Everyday Life

Clutching a cardboard box, a concerned woman enters PAWS Wildlife Rehabilitation Center lobby seeking help for a very sick bird. That she was able to easily approach and pick up the Red-tailed Hawk, now safely enclosed inside her container, was a sure sign something was terribly wrong.

The receptionist takes the patient into the exam room, then records information from the finder that might help the PAWS hospital staff determine the reason for the hawk's condition. Words like listless, weak and unresponsive are noted. During the wildlife veterinarian's exam, he finds no signs of broken bones, head injuries or any other physical trauma. His conclusion: poison.

It is difficult to determine exactly what kind of poison, but it's all too common for birds of prey to dine on rodents destroyed by rat poison or on other birds killed by lead shot, thinking they had scored an easy meal. Not only do the birds and rodents suffer a horrible death, but other animals become unintended targets, as well.

As if everyday life for a wild animal isn't challenging enough, poisons are just one of the numerous human-made hazards that wildlife face. Many, we don't even think about. Here are some to be aware of:

  • Automotive. Moving vehicles are responsible for frequent injuries in wild animals, often making orphans of wild babies. Please slow down. Pans of used motor oil or puddles of antifreeze have taken their share of wildlife victims. Be careful of drips and dispose of automotive products properly.
  • Pesticides. Secondary poisoning of birds or scavengers, like raccoons or opossums, is common when they eat exterminated insects, slugs or rodents. Visit your local natural gardening center to find ways of safely dealing with pests.
  • Fertilizers and Herbicides. Animals can ingest these products after they have been applied to plants. They may cause short-term effects or accumulate in the animals' bodies, causing slow poisoning and affecting the development of their offspring. Chemicals used on gardens and lawns can also wash out into streams and bays near by, harming the animals that depend on those water sources. Consider creating a more informal garden, and include plenty of native plant species. You'll use fewer garden chemicals and create a habitat for wildlife at the same time.
  • Traps. Sticky traps and pastes, snap traps and leg-hold traps, to name a few, are not only cruel for the intended target animals, but inevitably, other animals get caught as well. As animals try to free themselves from these devices and products, they can break legs and wings, tear skin and feathers, or starve to death. Instead, contact PAWS for ideas on how to deal humanely with conflicts with wildlife.
  • Fishing Gear. Recklessly discarded fishing line can ensnare water birds, such as ducks and gulls, so they become hopelessly entangled, no longer able to move, seek food, or escape danger. Some birds accidentally swallow hooks, lead weights or line, which can cause infections, obstructions and lead poisoning.If you see discarded fishing line, pick it up, and always dispose of used gear appropriately.
  • Food and Garbage. Uncovered garbage attracts all kinds of wildlife. Human food, however, is nutritionally unsound for wildlife and can wreak havoc on animals' systems, not to mention the numerous other non-food items people toss into their garbage. What's more, wildlife who depend on garbage for food can get into trouble with neighbors who may resort to cruel means of discouraging their visits. Keep your garbage securely covered.

Taking just a few simple measures will help ensure your local wildlife not only survives, but also thrives. For more information on ways to help wildlife visit or call PAWS at 425.787.2500 x817.

Part Two of “Caution: Dangers Ahead” addresses common dangers for companion animals.


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