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!
As spring turns into summer, things are really picking up at PAWS Wildlife Center. With over 200 patients currently being treated and over 140 released in May, our staff and volunteers are extremely busy preparing diets, cleaning and treating patients. This is the time of year when we start to get in more baby birds, specifically corvids; we currently have 10 youngsters.
Corvidae is a family of larger passerines (songbirds) that includes crows, ravens, jays, nutcrackers, and magpies. The most common species in this family in the Seattle area are American Crows and Steller’s Jays.
Corvids may seem like run-of-the-mill birds, but when it comes to intelligence they are at the top of their class. Corvids are considered to not only be the most intelligent birds but also some of the most intelligent animals in the world. They demonstrate self-awareness and tool making abilities, and crows can even recognize individual human faces. They have the ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, which has allowed them to successfully live among humans in more urban settings.
A corvid species that we frequently receive at PAWS is the Steller’s Jay. Each year we care for a mix of adults and babies, and already this year we have received over 20.
Named after naturalist Georg Steller, they are sometimes called Blue Jays, although they are quite different from their eastern cousins. They do indeed have a blue body, but their head is black with a triangular crest. They also do not have white markings on their wings and tail like Blue Jays have.
Here is some more information about this common Western Washington corvid.
Wingspan is 17.3 inches and weight ranges from 3.5 to 4.9 ounces.
Nest in conifer trees.
Clutch size is two to six eggs.
Generalist foragers, eating insects, nuts, berries, eggs, small animals and nestlings.
Very social and vocal.
Frequently can be seen hopping around.
Steller’s Jays use mud to build their nests.
They will rob other birds’ nests.
They are an excellent mimics; they can imitate the sounds of other birds, squirrels, cats, dogs, chickens and some mechanical objects.
The oldest recorded Steller’s Jay on record was at least 16 years old.
June is Adopt-a-Cat Month, and for good reason: It’s “kitten season,” and those little cuties are overrunning shelters all across the country. Unfortunately, although it’s a great time for kittens to find their forever homes, it’s not so good for adult and senior cats, who are often overlooked in the face of all that cuteness.
However, there are plenty of reasons to consider walking past all those squeaking, pouncing fuzzballs and finding a furry friend among the more mature cats in a shelter.
Senior cat Frenchy, now named Mlle. la Chatte, was adopted four years ago. She's still happy and healthy.
First, “senior” really isn’t that old. Here at PAWS we consider cats to be seniors at age 7, but a well-cared-for indoor cat can live into her late teens. PAWS alumna Frenchy, now named Mademoiselle la Chatte, was adopted in 2012 at the age of 10. The latest reports from her adopter indicate that she’s still in great health and enjoying her life in her new home. There’s no reason to fear that a senior cat is too old to enjoy years of happiness with you.
Senior cats are well past the “adorably cute tornado” stage of development, in which kittens learn about their environment by climbing, scratching, chewing and getting into things they shouldn’t. If you’re looking for a mellow companion to sit with you while you read, watch TV or meditate, a senior could be just the cat for you.
Ten-year-old Dr. Dre is looking for his forever home.
Older cats have generally known a life in a home and they’re familiar with having doting humans and warm beds all to themselves, so the shelter can be kind of a shock to them. Senior kitties will be especially glad to have a family of their own again, and they’ll show it with cuddles and purrs.
Senior cats’ personalities are fully formed, so you know what you’re getting before you adopt. It’s hard to know whether that tiny kitten is going to turn into a calm and quiet “lap fungus” or an extroverted, active and independent cat who needs to play for hours on end. With older cats, shelter staff can confidently guide you toward feline friends that are a good match for your family and lifestyle.
Fourteen-year-old Gig was adopted last week.
If you adopt an older cat and sometime in the future you do decide that you’d like to adopt a kitten, an older cat who’s already a member of your household can offer feline-style guidance on how to behave and respond to life in your home.
Older adult cats may be a better choice for families with children because they tend to be more patient with grabby little hands – although you should still supervise your children when they’re playing with the cat to make sure there are no unfortunate accidents.
Softy, age 11, is looking for a lap to call her own.
We’re delighted when any cat, no matter their age, finds a forever home, but the next time you want to adopt a cat, please consider visiting with the older cats, too. You may just find a feline friend who will be your loving companion for many years to come.
During the first week of May, with the help of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Karelian bear dog team and black bear biologists, we said goodbye to our nine American Black Bears who wintered over at PAWS Wildlife Center.
You may remember that we received nine bear cubs between August and January. All were from different areas in Washington but all were in the same predicament—orphaned and too young to survive on their own.
It has been several years since we have had this many black bear cubs at one time at PAWS, and our rehabilitation staff worked hard all winter long, spending hours each day cleaning, feeding and preparing enrichment items for them.
As for the bears, they spent a lot of their winter sleeping together in a big black tub, play fighting, searching their enclosures for food and lounging on hammocks specially made by the Boy Scouts.
On the morning of May 2, WDFW bear biologists and several of the Karelian Bear Dog officers arrived at PAWS to help us anesthetize the first group of bears for their pre-release exams, to take measurements, and to place them in the culvert traps they would be released from high up in the Cascades. Five bears were to be released on May 3 and the remaining four on May 4.
On the morning of May 3, PAWS joined a caravan of four WDFW trucks to take the first five bears to their release site. We were also joined by three additional officers and their Karelian bear dogs.
In Washington, black bear releases are conducted using Karelian Bear Dogs who are specially trained to work with bears. They scare and chase the bears as they leave the trap. This is one more reminder that humans are bad and that they should stay away.
These releases are also a useful training tool for newcomers to the Karelian bear dog team like Jax, who is just over a year old. Jax is normally stationed near Spokane but made the trip to western Washington with his officer to not only watch the adult dogs work but to join them. The May 4 release was the first release during which Jax was let off of his leash and able to run with the seasoned bear dogs. It was a special day for Officer Keith Kirsch, who has had Jax and has been training him since he was only a few months old.
The bears were released one culvert trap at a time, and within 10 minutes they had all disappeared into the wilderness. Our job for the day, however, was not quite complete. We returned to PAWS to conduct pre-release exams on the remaining four bears and get them settled into culvert traps for their release the following morning.
By 11 a.m. on May 4, all nine bears were back in the wild to once again be functioning members of the Washington black bear population.
This video was taken during the bear release. In it, you can hear the Karelian Bear Dogs in the background. If you can't see it here, you can watch it on YouTube.
Summer is almost upon us. We’re eagerly awaiting the warm sun beaming down on our skin, the breeze blowing through our hair, and the smells of summer. You know who else is eagerly awaiting this? Your cat.
Our feline friends appreciate the great outdoors almost as much as we do. But for these furry friends, the outdoors can bring more danger than pleasure. The average lifespan of an outdoor cat is only two to three years, whereas indoor-only cats can live 15 to 20 years. Outdoor cats face dangers that include traffic, poison, disease, and run-ins with other animals. High veterinary bills for treatment can also cause stress on households.
Keeping our cats inside not only provides them with a long, healthy and happy life, but it also helps our wildlife. Cats pose a major threat to wildlife as these super-predators, well fed, rested and cared for, can be responsible for countless injuries and deaths of birds and small mammals. Our wildlife hospital at PAWS receives many patients suffering from cat attack injuries each year.
Baby birds are one example of wild patients often brought to PAWS as a result of a cat attack.
Catios, or enclosed outdoor patios for cats, can offer a safe solution for cats and wildlife and are ultimately a great way to provide your cat with safe outdoor time. The addition of a catio to your property can provide fresh air, exercise and endless opportunities for your cat to soak up the sun, as well as enjoy birds and wildlife from a safe distance. Catios can come in all shapes and sizes, from simple window boxes, to elaborate free-standing shelters with tunnels leading from the house safely out to the catio.
Interested in seeing a catio in person? Join PAWS for our annual Catio Tour Seattle on Saturday, May 21, from noon to 4 p.m. Eleven catios around the Seattle area will be open to meet some cat-loving homeowners and their lucky felines, and tour their catio up close. Hear firsthand their inspiration for building a catio and their unique approaches to building the right catio for their cat, home and budget. Let the cats do the talking when it comes to showing off their prime feline real estate and all of the pleasures of the outdoors that it provides them.
Catio Tour Seattle will feature catios from Bothell to West Seattle. Visit one or all 11 catios. To register for this year’s tour, visit the Catio Tour Seattle website.
Pets can be great for children: Not only do they help kids to learn about empathy and compassion, but they teach responsibility as well. Studies have even shown that pets can help children to be healthier by strengthening the immune system.
April 26 is National Kids and Pets Day, which makes it a great time to share some tips to help kids live together happily with dogs and cats.
PAWS cats Fuji and Gala went to a forever home with a small child.
Children under the age of five should never be left alone with a dog or cat. At this young age, they are still learning how to interact properly with pets, and they need your attention and guidance to do so.
Teach your children about cats’ and dogs’ body language. This will help them to understand your dog or cat and avoid accidents or injuries. There are some great pictorial guides available on the internet so kids who are still learning to read can get to know things like the signs of stress or relaxation.
Teach your children to “be gentle with the dog” or “be gentle with the kitty.” That is, no tail-pulling, no chasing or grabbing.
Don’t allow your child to grab a dog’s or cat’s toys away or disturb him while he’s asleep.
Use a baby gate to separate your dog and your young children when your dog is eating. A baby gate can also give your cat a “safe room” if she wants to get away from the kids for a while.
Make sure your cat has plenty of high places where she can observe children without being in their immediate reach.
PAWS dog Goose went to a forever family with a number of kids.
Our animal behavior lead at PAWS, Rachel Bird, offers this advice on how to get kids involved with caring for their animal companions.
Let them help with feeding your dog or cat. “Feeding animals helps in the ‘bonding’ process,” Rachel says. “Animals really respond to the person giving them food! I like to mix it up at home, and I will rotate between my children to give them all a chance to feed everyone or hand out treats.”
Let children play with cats using a laser pointer or wand toys. This allows the child to be a safe distance from the cat in order to avoid accidental scratches or bites, and both are having fun.
Children benefit from getting involved in obedience classes for dogs. “Usually, kids love to learn how to teach a dog new tricks,” Rachel says, “so it’s just a matter of teaching him how to teach them.”
Older children can take your dog for walks or clean litter boxes. These chores teach children about some of the responsibilities involved in having an animal companion, and will make them better pet guardians when they become adults.
How have you helped your children learn how to care for your dog or cat? Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments.
Find out more about companion animal behavior and welfare in our online resource library.