As the days become shorter and the nights become colder, many wildlife species in our area are preparing for winter. For some, that means getting out of town and migrating south, some are getting ready to hibernate, and others are just preparing for the cold and rainy weather ahead.
One of these species is the Raccoon. Although Raccoons do not hibernate, they are less active during extremely cold periods. This time of year they are out and about preparing for the winter, taking advantage of food resources currently available before they become less plentiful.
Raccoon patients in their enclosure at PAWS wildlife hospital
Young of the year are still with mom learning valuable survival skills that will help get them through this winter and others to come.
For those Raccoons who live in a more natural environment, that means learning to forage, evade predators and find suitable dens for sleep during the day.
For urban Raccoons, this may mean learning how to safely navigate our streets and exploit resources that we leave behind.
A Raccoon in their natural environment, where foraging and evading predators is key
Because Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores they can, and will, eat pretty much anything. In urban environments their natural food sources are scarce or not available at all, so they have learned to live off of our trash, pet food, scraps and vegetable gardens.
A Raccoon patient at PAWS enjoys a watermelon
They may even seek shelter under porches, in crawl spaces, or in attics. This can cause negative interactions with us and our pets. If you find signs of Raccoons raiding your garden or living under your porch and would like them to move on, there are a few things you can do:
NEVER intentionally feed raccoons. They are very capable of finding their own food and do not need handouts. In fact, this is a good rule to follow for all wildlife. If raccoons are getting into your garbage, secure trash can lids with rope, chain, bungee cords or weights, or purchase cans that have clamps or other mechanisms to hold lids down.
Do not feed your pets outdoors and be sure to shut pet doors that lead into your home at night. Raccoons have been known to enter people’s homes through dog doors in search of food. If you have to feed domestic animals outside, be sure to pick up all food and water bowls (including leftovers) each night. Also secure any compost containers.
If you enjoy dining al fresco, be sure to clean up BBQ areas.
If you have a Raccoon living in your attic, chimney or under the house you can prevent them accessing these areas by altering the structure slightly. Using metal or plastic spikes and aluminum flashing will prevent them from crawling up the sides of your house.
To prevent Raccoons from getting into your garden try using bright lights, especially those activated by motion, or by creating noise disturbances when the raccoons are present. Building a perimeter fence may also deter them.
The main thing to remember is the Raccoon is just trying to do what it can to survive on the limited resources it can find. They do not want to cause any harm, and avoid conflict when they can.
Most visitors to PAWS are looking to adopt a new family member or are lending a helping hand to a wildlife patient in need. But there’s another group that frequents the PAWS campus as well. They might be small, but they sure are mighty. Kids!
Since the start of the year, 720 kids have participated in education programs at PAWS to learn more about companion animals and their local wildlife. What do they do while they are here? Take a glimpse into the world of kids at PAWS…
Each program tours our shelter to visit the cats and dogs waiting to find their forever home, or stops over at our wildlife hospital lobby to take a peek at our current patients through live hidden cameras.
Above: Kids enjoying a tour of our companion animal shelter
Through games, activities, and imaginative play, kids learn about the responsibilities of having a pet, and how to be kind and gentle towards each and every one.
They even help the dogs and cats at PAWS be adopted! By creating mini advertisements highlighting an animal’s best features, they draw the eyes of potential adopters to their kennel.
Above: Learning how to be gentle with cats (L). and a mini advertisement for an adorable adoptable (R)
Hands-on experience with wildlife biofacts gives kids a chance to explore wild animals up close and learn about what makes these creatures so awesome.
As backyards go, ours is the perfect place for an adventure! Kids learn about what wild animals need in their habitat in order to survive, and how they can help.
Above: Examining biofacts (L) and exploring PAWS' backyard (R)
They even get to pretend to be wildlife rehabilitators, and when provided with the right vet tools, major surgery has been known to take place...
Above: Injured animal stuffies, post-surgery
Have a child in mind who would think “this is the best day ever!”? Visit the kids section of our website to learn more about the programs offered, and take a look at these upcoming programs:
There are seven species of squirrels that inhabit Washington and PAWS is no stranger to caring for some of these species. We receive hundreds of squirrels every year.
Currently we're caring for more than 75 young squirrels. They begin their care in our small mammal nursery where they are fed by our volunteers. Each squirrel in the nursery has to be fed three to five times a day depending on how old he is. Multiply that by 75 and that calculates to over 225 feedings a day!
Each feeding can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes per squirrel depending on how well they drink from the syringe. During the busiest part of baby squirrel season at PAWS, when we are at squirrel capacity, that equates to over 75 hours of volunteer time, on average, per day. Thanks to our stellar volunteers we are able to feed more than one squirrel at once.
A volunteer syringe-feeds a baby squirrel
Some very special squirrel patients we receive almost every year are Northern Flying Squirrels. Typically we receive youngsters who have fallen from their nest cavity at night and are discovered on the ground the next morning.
They are very tricky eaters and are fed by staff only at first until they get the hang of the syringes. They are small, soft, have large eyes and are a favorite among our volunteers. We only receive two to five each year but they leave a lasting impression.
Northern Flying Squirrel patients at PAWS
Here's some information about these inhabitants of the night sky:
They're between 10 and 12 inches long - They are most active at night - They have a membrane that connects their front and back legs called a patagium, which allows them to glide (not fly) between trees - They are omnivores and eat foods including seeds, nuts, fungi, fruit and insects - They prefer coniferous and mixed coniferous forests - They are superb gliders making them escape artists from predators - Their biggest predator is owls, specifically Spotted Owls - They can live up to five years in the wild - Their offspring rely on the female for care for two months
And perhaps the most impressive fact of all... they can glide 80 to 150 feet at once!
The start of another school year is rapidly sneaking up on us, and with it comes the release of more wildlife patients, a myriad of happy adoption stories at our companion animal shelter, and the return of our education team to classrooms throughout the community.
Our volunteers are also just as busy as ever helping staff care for all the animals who need our help.
Volunteering opportunities at PAWS are available to people who are 18 years of age or older. But we frequently get calls and e-mails from enthusiastic teens asking if there are ways they can get hands on with the work that we do.
Usually we talk them through how to organize fundraising drives or help spread awareness of animal welfare issues among family and friends, and encourage them to sign up to volunteer with us when they turn 18.
That is, until now!
We've listened to these animal champions and have developed an exciting new opportunity which enables them to get directly involved in helping animals at PAWS this fall.
Taking place over the course of two Saturday mornings this fall, September 24 and October 1, this workshop is offered to teens between the ages of 13 and 17.
Participants will have the chance to explore different animal welfare issues facing both wildlife and companion animals - learning about careers helping animals (click this link and the video below to watch two careers videos created at PAWS), meeting other young animal advocates, and working together on projects to create lasting change for animals in the community.
Teens will engage with the work that PAWS does through hands-on service projects and activities, including making enrichment items for our wildlife patients and creating a PSA (Public Service Announcement) to share what they have learned.
What better way to get started helping animals than by signing up for Teens Helping Animals? The first day of the workshop will be held on Saturday, September 24 and has a wildlife focus. The second day, on Saturday, October 1 will focus on companion animals. A program fee of $30 helps cover the cost of the workshop. Space is limited so visit our events page today to register!
Want to know more about our education programs at PAWS? Find out here.
The summer season is still in full swing, which makes for a bustling wildlife hospital; we're currently caring for more than 160 patients! This means some of our outdoor enclosures are pretty full, but none more so than our raptor mews.
Nestled among dense trees on our Lynnwood, Washington campus, our raptor mew complex consists of seven enclosures and is connected to an L-shaped flight pen.We are currently housing 18 patients; 17 in the mews and one in the flight pen. Among these patients we have quite the diversity of species.
There's a young Barred Owl who we raised from a small owlet and is waiting for his tail feathers to regrow. We're also caring for a Great Horned Owl who arrived with a severe head tilt and bruised eye lids.
Above: Great Horned Owl (left), Osprey (center) and Red-tailed Hawk (right)
Other patients include an adult Bald Eagle whose primary feathers were completely tattered on his left wing and are re-growing; a young Bald Eagle who is learning to fly and gaining strength as she awaits release; two Ospreys, an adult who got tangled in fishing line after catching an already-caught fish and a juvenile found in someone’s driveway; and, a Red-tailed Hawk who was shot with a BB gun.
But that's not the end of our patient list. Occasionally, we house species other than raptors in our mews. Right now we have 11 Glaucous-winged Gull youngsters in two of the mews.
So, what does a mew consist of? Each of our mews are large to give our patients room to spread their wings and take short flights as they regain strength while in recovery. Some of our patients need more room than others and for them we can open windows between the mews and even between the mews and the flight pen.
Above: Our raptor mew complex at PAWS
We add obstacles our patients must fly around to improve their agility, perches and boxes for our patients to rest on, enrichment to stimulate their senses, and pools for those species who need them.
Over the next few weeks these patients will be released, making room for the next round of patients in need of recovery time in the mews.
We all know that lead is a danger to people. There are laws and regulations to keep it out of our paint, water and food. However did you know that lead can also be a danger to wildlife?
Wildlife can be exposed to lead that is left behind in the environment by people. Things like fishing tackle, bullets and shotgun pellets, paint chips, discarded batteries, pesticides, mining waste, leaded gasoline spills, old pennies or other lead materials that are not disposed of properly are very harmful to wildlife, particularly birds. Waterfowl, raptors, and game birds are the most susceptible species to lead poisoning.
In 2010, this Bald Eagle with lead poisoning was treated at our wildlife hospital.
Lead poisoning is a chronic disease that causes weight loss and emaciation, weakness and lethargy, poor growth and development, blindness, seizures, fewer eggs laid, higher egg mortality, and even death.
On May 21, a Canada Goose found on the side of the road unable to fly was brought to PAWS Wildlife Center. It was determined that he had been shot in the right wing with an air rifle, resulting in a fracture. Radiographs also revealed that there was a lead pellet in his ventriculus (gizzard). Our veterinary team believe it is the same pellet that fractured his wing, and that he swallowed it while preening the pellet from his side.
Our Canada Goose patient had lead poisoning.
After our veterinary team discovered the pellet in his ventriculus, they tested his blood lead level because although he was not showing typical symptoms of lead poisoning, he was not eating on his own. Sure enough, the results showed a lead level of more than 65 mcg/dL which is over six times the level considered safe for humans by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Our Canada Goose patient swims in his pool.
In order for the goose to recover from the lead poisoning, he needed to have the lead pellet removed from his ventriculus and to go through several rounds of chelation. Chelation is a technique used to remove heavy metals from the blood and involves injecting a chelating agent into the bloodstream a few times a day over several days. Our goose patient was injected with the chelating agent twice a day for 19 days. Thanks to Dr. Polly Peterson and her team at VCA Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle, an endoscopy was performed on June 2 and the pellet was successfully removed.
Once the pellet was removed, the goose’s blood lead level started to go down and we knew the process was working despite the fact that it was very stressful on the goose. After 51 days in care, he was released back into the wild.
We are currently treating more than 250 patients at PAWS Wildlife Center so, needless to say, our staff and volunteers are quite busy. Some of our patients like our Raccoon kits require more long-term care than others.
We are currently caring for 41 young Raccoons. Our first orphan arrived on May 13 and our last on June 26. These youngsters will be in our care until their release this fall. The majority of them are not related and came from different areas in western Washington.
When many of the Raccoon kits arrive, they weigh just over a pound and their eyes are still closed. This is the most vulnerable stage of their lives, and they are kept in an incubator for warmth as they cannot properly regulate their own body temperature. Staff, interns and advanced volunteers spend hours each day tube feeding them and cleaning our two Raccoon nurseries.
After several weeks of care in the nurseries, the kits are weaned and big enough to graduate to an outside enclosure, the Raccoon silos, where they remain until the fall.
In the silos, which are secluded from other patients and from us, they learn to climb and search for food. As you can imagine, Raccoons can make quite a mess, so our interns and volunteers are kept very busy with cleaning all four silos daily. This can take hours because not only does everything have to be cleaned, it must also be disinfected to keep our little patients healthy.
Enrichment is one of the most important things for Raccoons. They are very intelligent and have very sensitive hands. We introduce them to a variety of materials in their enclosures, which keeps them curious and busy and stimulates their senses. They also have pools to play in to beat the heat and natural items such as logs and branches to climb on and search for food. However, the majority of the day is spent sleeping on a specially made platforms above the ground in a pile.
Zeke and Shanna adopted Scout and Bebo from PAWS in 2013. Recently they took some time to talk about the lives of their lucky PAWS kitties.
Bebo (left) and Scout
What made you decide to adopt from a shelter? Both Shanna and I have volunteered at various shelters over the years, and we’ve always wanted to do what we can to help find home for animals in need. We’ve also both previously adopted animals from shelters and had great experiences.
What brought you to PAWS? Before Bebo and Scout, I had another cat, Gato, for 18 years. I adopted her as a stray when she was very young, and when she passed away I felt that I wanted to honor her by helping other cats find the same kind of happiness I had with her. Shanna had previously volunteered at PAWS and we had both participated in events like PAWSwalk. I began volunteering at PAWS, too, and first met Scout while I was working as a cat room cleaner.
What was it that most attracted you to Scout and Bebo? Scout was very affectionate, and friendly. When I first walked past her kennel, she gave me a little chirp and rubbed her face on the cage. Shanna and I took a vacation the week after I met Scout, and I thought about her the whole time we were gone. I decided that if she was still at PAWS when we returned, I would adopt her. Sure enough, when we came back there she was.
I crouched down to her, and she jumped up on my leg and licked me on the nose, purred, and head-butted me. When Shanna joined us, Bebo was sitting in a bed near the window; he looked up at her and belted out a great big meow as if to indicate it was his turn to get attention. As soon as this happened, I knew we were bringing him home with us, too.
Scout's favorite sleeping position
How was your journey home and settling in together? We already had a dog, so we made sure to introduce the cats to him very slowly. We kept them completely separated at first and gradually let them spend more and more time around each other until we found they could all behave together. It took about six weeks. Eventually, they would all sleep together on the couch.
How would you describe Scout’s and Bebo’s personalities? Scout is pretty much a diva; she likes to be the center of attention. She has a very sweet affectionate side, but she can be grumpy sometimes and she likes to tease the dog. She is very intelligent and inquisitive, and loves to play with her toy mice.
Bebo was a cat who acted like royalty. We would joke that he must have been an emperor in a previous life. He had a way of demanding to be petted that was impossible to resist. When we would pet him, he would purr in an almost musical tone, and meow loudly with approval. He was everyone’s friend, and wasn’t shy at all.
How have Scout and Bebo changed your life? They came into our family at a time when we were just getting over the loss of our beloved Gato. Oscar, our dog, was very attached to Shanna, but I’m more of a cat person and I really felt like something was missing. Bringing Scout and Bebo into our home allowed me to feel that connection with a pet again and made us feel good about giving two older cats a great place to live out their lives.
How old were Scout and Bebo when you adopted them? What do you think is the best thing about adopting cats of that age? When we adopted Scout, they guessed her age to be about nine years old, and Bebo was estimated to be 11. We adopted senior cats because we know they can have a harder time finding new homes and we wanted to give them the best lives we could imagine.
Scout is good friends with Zeke and Shanna's dog, Oscar
What advice do you have for people considering adopting a cat? Take your time and find the cat that is right for you. If you have existing pets, introduce everyone slowly, as the more careful you are with their introductions, the better the relationship between your established pets and the newcomers will likely be. Be sure you will be able to give your cat the time, attention and care that he needs to be healthy and happy.
Even though our time with Bebo was short, he was an unforgettable companion, and left an indelible mark on our lives. Scout has also captured our hearts very strongly. It’s a rewarding feeling to know that we have opened our home to two cats in need and given them some of the best years of their lives.
While Zeke and Shanna were responding to our questions for this blog, Bebo sadly passed away, on April 12, 2016. We extend our deep compassion and condolences to Zeke, Shanna and their furry family, and thank them for answering our questions during this difficult time.
We are currently caring for more than 100 young birds at PAWS Wildlife Center, many of which start out in our Baby Bird Nursery. However, there are some birds who never stretch their wings in the nursery.
Baby Barn Owls
Baby raptors who come to PAWS for care are treated differently from songbirds and other species. Because raptors are with their parents for a lot longer than songbirds and can be easily habituated to people when they are young, we try to reunite them with their parents when we can. Unfortunately, that is not always possible and in these cases they are raised at PAWS.
Like other wildlife we treat, we receive raptors at different stages of development. Some are hatchlings that are just a day or two old, while others are fledglings who left their nest too early and find themselves in harm’s way. Some youngsters get knocked out of their nest by their siblings or a predator, resulting in an injury.
Baby Barred Owl
Currently we are caring for eight young raptors—four Barn Owls, three Barred Owls and a Peregrine Falcon. The youngsters are housed with others of their species if we have more than one. This is very important for their development, as they learn valuable behavioral and social skills from each other which helps them survive in the wild.
Our Peregrine Falcon patient is only scheduled for a short stay with us. He fledged a little too early and is not able to fly just yet. Once his primary feathers are long enough, he will be returned to his nest site to be reunited with his family with the help of the Falcon Research Group. He will then start learning to hunt with his siblings as his parents stay nearby providing food from time to time.
Baby Peregrine Falcon
Our owl patients, however, will stay in our care until they are old enough to return to the wild. Until that time, they will spend their days taking short flights in their enclosures slowly learning to fly. Before they are deemed ready for release, we will ensure that they can catch live prey, which is the most important skill they need to survive on their own.
Once they are ready, they will be taken to a suitable habitat near where they were originally found because it will fulfill all of the requirements that will allow them to be successful in the wild.
With Memorial Day behind us, it seems that summer might finally have arrived.
The education team at PAWS are busy preparing for a new early childhood program for children aged three to five years, scheduling scout badge classes, as well as getting ready for community education classes and outreach events. With our eyes on our computers and our bags packed full of brochures and craft supplies, it can be easy to lose sight of what’s happening outside our window.
Summer means sunshine and playing outdoors, barbeques and baseball, beaches or backpacking. It can be a time of family gatherings and vacations. As you make plans for the upcoming season, I encourage you to not only get outside, but to take a child with you. Introduce them to the beauty in nature and make time to go exploring with them.
A female Rufous Hummingbird at a Salmonberry flower
Rachel Carson, groundbreaking author of Silent Spring (1962) said, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
We all spend too much time in front of electronic screens, interacting with keyboards. It would be good for us to get outdoors. Time spent outdoors can help counteract some current childhood issues like obesity and decreased attention span. In adults, time outdoors has even been linked with increased creativity and improved moods.
Perhaps the most important reason to get outdoors is to observe the wonders of the natural world and to better understand the beings that live around us.
This morning, as I took my dogs outside before work, I saw a beautiful (and tiny) flash of yellow and red in the trees outside of my house. A brilliant little bird glanced my way briefly, then zipped into the trees and a loud chorus of chirping played for several seconds where he disappeared.
A moment later the chorus stopped and the little bird was back on his tree limb. Right there, above my head, a Western Tanager had fed his nest of babies!
A family of birds was going about their lives, raising their children, and probably enjoying the sunshine as much as I was. I felt as though I had shared a short moment with this beautiful creature, and you can bet I’ll be watching for him and his brood every morning from now on!
As I entered the reality of my day, I also realized that it’s moments like this that motivate every youth education program that I present. At PAWS we strive to help children experience moments of connectedness with other beings. These moments are the seeds of empathy, the ability to understand the world through another animal’s eyes. Empathy leads to kindness and compassion, “helping behaviors” in the words of psychologists.
Great Blue Heron
I think Rachel Carson may have had this in mind when she wrote, ”The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
We couldn’t agree more, and hope to see you outdoors this summer!