PAWS Magazine

Issue 71, Fall 2008

Diversity Demands Ingenuity

A Vaux's Swift clings to a carpeted panel which offers him a good vertical gripping surface. This summer, PAWS reached a milestone of caring for more than 100,000 wild animals, representing over 260 different species, since we began wildlife rehabilitation in 1981. How has PAWS managed to provide for such a diversity of animals? With creativity, flexibility and more than two-and-a-half decades of experience.

"We study how animals live in the wild, so while in our care we can replicate their natural environment as much as possible to lower stress and speed healing," says PAWS Wildlife Director Jennifer Convy. "Trying a new technique means adjusting it to meet an animal's medical needs and natural behaviors. Once we refine a successful method we share it with our colleagues in the field."


Photo of a Northern Flying Squirrel and a Western Grebe
One example is net-bottomed caging for seabirds, such as Western Grebes, to rest on while out of the water. Because their bodies are not equipped for standing on solid ground for long periods of time, solid-bottomed pens cause severe sores on their feet and chest. Another example is the dark, vertical caging wildlife staff create for raising orphaned Vaux's Swifts. The enclosure is designed to simulate the inside of a dead, hollow tree. Swifts are uncomfortable perching on horizontal perches like other songbirds (read more about Vaux's Swifts on page 11).

On a busy day in the middle of our peak season—April through October—the staff and volunteers prepare up to 50 different diets for the wild animals in our care. From a fish slurry for a young Harbor Seal pup, to a combination of fruit, fish, protein chow and mealworms for Raccoon patients.

We also rely on our community to help care for so many animals. Veterinarians with specialties in ophthalmology, local companies who donate sweat equity to build enclosures, and volunteers who tackle loads of laundry, among many other not-so-glamorous, but crucial tasks.

Learn how you can help care for Washington's wildlife at

Photo of a Barn Owl, Killdeer, and Bobcat.


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