By Katherine Spink, PAWS Staff

Dogs have always been part of Janiece’s life so, when her beloved Dozer passed away in 2012, it was somewhat inevitable that life soon began to feel empty and the pull to get another dog became stronger. Little did she know the amazing and life-changing adventure that awaited her with Roxy, adopted in January 2013 and now about to become a fully-fledged Search and Rescue dog!


How did you find Roxy?
I love telling this story! In November of 2012, my old dog Dozer passed away and I soon started feeling the pull to get another dog. Of course, everyone loves to help you find a new dog, so my friends at work were scanning all the adoption sites for me. A good friend at work (and prior PAWS volunteer) found a shepherd mix she thought would be perfect. I raced to PAWS after work to meet her.

Just talking to her through the kennel door I could tell she wasn’t the dog for me, but as I walked by Roxy something made me stop. I’d seen her previously on the website but she hadn’t triggered anything with me, until I saw her. I instantly knew she was supposed to be in my life.

It was too late to do a meet and greet that day, so I planned to come back the next day. When I got there another family was visiting with her. I was crushed and hoped they wouldn’t click with her. Luckily for me they didn’t and I got to spend some time with her.

She didn’t really care about me and was basically just a big puppy at that point. All she really knew was how to sit for cookies. She had A LOT of energy and was a little nippy (ah, the herding breeds!). I was hooked and put a hold on her. She came home the next day and settled right in on the car ride home.


What were some of the highlights of your first weeks together?
Oh dear, I wish I could say it was a honeymoon from the beginning, but that was not the case! She tried to attack my cat Bailey (there was a baby gate between them), spent a couple months peeing on the floor, and was horrible with visitors. She was, however, a total sweetheart! As she settled into her new life, we worked through all those issues . She’s now great with the cat (they share my bed), never pees inside and loves meeting new people!


Were you looking for a Search and Rescue candidate when you started looking for a dog?
I was not, but quickly realized after I got Roxy, this dog NEEDS to work! The Snohomish County K9 Team was hosting an open house, so I decided to check it out. We joined in 2013. Two years later, here we are and my life has completely changed!

How does the training work?
In Snohomish County, you’re first a member of Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue (SCVSAR). There are training requirements at the county level including navigation, first aid, and wilderness survival. The county also has specialty teams, such as K9 and Equine, and each team has additional training based on their specialty. On average it takes 18 to 24 (or more) months to certify a dog. There’s no cost for the training, however you do have to purchase and maintain your own equipment.

Roxy rigging

What makes Roxy such a good candidate for SAR?
She has high drive (she LOVES to play tug and “hunt” people), she’s bold, energetic and athletic. She’s that dog that will go all day, rest for an hour and be ready to go again. That’s the type of dog that drives you crazy as a pet but makes an excellent SAR dog!

What does the life of a SAR dog involve?
Training, training and more training! Pretty much I just try to keep up with her. We do agility once a week, train with the team once or twice a week, and work on obedience, etc. in between. She also has regular doggie play dates with her friends. Down time to just “be a dog” is really important too. It’s easy to burn a dog out with too much training.

In additional to all of that, it’s important to keep your SAR dog physically fit. We ask a lot of them when they’re working and they need to be prepared for that. We do something active pretty much every day, sometimes that’s a run, a romp at the park or a good hike.


Any funny training moments you can share?
She had a brief stint as a sled dog while we were training at Mount Rainier. I fell down and she was so excited to start her problem she kept going. I held on and went for a little ride. I think I see skijoring (a winter sport where you’re on skis and pulled by a dog/horse/vehicle) in our future!

What will the next steps be once you’re certified?
She’ll be ready to deploy on missions. She’s currently working on her Airscent Certification, which involves working off leash in large areas. We’ve also done some disaster and avalanche training, and will likely continue to pursue that after she’s certified in Airscent.


Having trouble viewing this video?  Watch it on YouTube.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to adopt a dog?
First and foremost, make sure you’re getting a dog for the right reasons and you have the time to commit to dog ownership. Second, make sure you get the right dog for your lifestyle and be realistic about what that is. I see so many people get that “cute” working breed, then don’t give it a job. Those dogs will find a job, we’ve bred them to work. They may just decide that eating your couch or herding your children is the best job for them!

10553525_10202987851156398_8672844687208800613_nGet professional guidance from the beginning. Even if you’ve had dogs before, this helps get you and the dog off on the right foot. Give your dog time to adjust and try to see things from his/her perspective. Their entire world has just been turned upside down. Who knows what their history is? Their behavior is based on their past experiences, and that won’t change overnight.

Dogs of all shapes, sizes and personalities end up in shelters looking for that new forever family who’ll let their talents shine – whether those talents are delivering love through snuggles, creating laughter through fun times, or saving lives. Thank you, Janiece, for seeing Roxy’s potential and giving her the perfect career as well as the perfect home!

Find your Roxy today — adopt

Donate now and help us continue providing a safe place for companion animals in need until they find their forever families.

By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist

On May 23, 2015 PAWS Wildlife Center received a severely injured adult Coyote.

Entangled in discarded construction wire, the Coyote had wire around his neck and impaled in his right front paw. It was so tight that it caused a very large deep open wound on the back of his neck.

Coyote 151284 06162015 (1)

He was seen limping in a North Seattle neighborhood and reported by several concerned members of the public, which led to his capture by an animal control officer. Based on the severity of his injuries and fear that this Coyote would die the officer quickly brought him to PAWS for medical attention.

Our rehabilitator and veterinary staff examined him immediately and carefully removed the wire from his neck and paw. He was put on antibiotics, his wounds where cleaned and dressed, and he was placed in one of our isolation rooms where he could be closely monitored.

Coyote 151284 Wound Management 05282015 JM (10)

The neck wound covered over half of his neck, went almost down to the bone and one of his ligaments was destroyed. Initially we were concerned he would never be able to lift his head, let alone survive. The weeks following his arrival were filled with wound management, antibiotics, and all the fresh food he could eat.

Thanks to the expertise of our medical and rehabilitation staff the Coyote’s neck was completely healed after 73 days in our care.

Coyote Release 08042015 JM (1)

With the help of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, a suitable release site was located. On August 4th he left the carrier without hesitation only to look back for a split second before disappearing into the forest.

This Coyote is extremely lucky to have had such a caring community keep a watchful eye on him which led to his eventual capture and recovery.


Can't see the video above? Try watching on our PAWS Wildlife Vimeo channel.

We are seeing more and more patients with entanglement injuries, this coyote’s story is an excellent example of how poorly discarded garbage such as wire and plastic can negatively affect the wildlife we live with.

If you happen to see any debris laying around please pick it up and discard it in a trash can to help prevent these types of accidents from happening.

Inspired by our work? Consider making a donation today to help us continue providing vital care to wild animals in need.

Found a wild animal in need? Find out how PAWS can help.

Interested in a career in wildlife rehabilitation? Check out internship/externship opportunities at PAWS.


By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist

What's the sleek medium-sized mammal who roams the forests near streams, rivers and ponds across much of the United States and Canada? It has a glossy fur coat, spends most of its time hunting for food, and has webbed feet...

It's the American Mink.

What you may not know is that American Mink are actually native to Washington and found state wide. Feeding on small mammals and fish, these carnivores are also excellent swimmers and will dive to 16 feet deep!  


Mink are part of the mustelidae, or weasel, family along with River Otters, Badgers, Martens, Ferrets, Wolverines and—of course—Weasels.

In the wild their rich glossy coat is dark brown, and they can be distinguished from other weasels by the white marking on their chin. Weighing just over two pounds, they have small ears and short stubby legs.

Mink are very territorial and will spray intruders with a foul smelling liquid much like skunks. We know, hard to believe looking at the innocent faces of these recent arrivals at PAWS Wildlife Center!


We rarely receive Mink here at PAWS, but this year we're caring for two youngsters.

In mid-May we received a two ounce baby male whose eyes were still closed. He was found lying under a bench on a boat dock in Bellevue. About a month later a female was transferred to us from Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. She was also found alone, too young to survive on her own.


It's extremely important that youngsters in care don't become habituated or too used to people. This can be dangerous for the animal and for humans. To help prevent that, Wolf Hollow and PAWS decided these two mink should grow up together and the female was transferred to us.

Can't see the video above? Try watching on our PAWS Wildlife Vimeo channel. 

The mink have been sharing an enclosure for several weeks now and love to play, hunt, explore and swim. With enrichment provided by our staff and volunteers they are learning skills they will need to survive when they are returned to the wild later this year.


Inspired by our work? Consider making a donation today to help us continue providing vital care to wild animals in need.

Found a wild animal in need? Find out how PAWS can help.

Interested in a career in wildlife rehabilitation? Check out internship/externship opportunities at PAWS.

By Katherine Spink, PAWS Staff

If you were following PAWS News back in March, you're sure to know the story of Betty Blue - a pit bull who gave birth alone in a field alongside a canal in California. Her courage, tenacity and unreserved faith in humans captivated and inspired all who met or read about her.

Today, an email from her new family has us reaching for the Kleenex to mop away those happy tears. Read on as Christine shares her family's first three months with this lovable lady:

Ms. Betty Blue…where to begin? We’ve had the pleasure of sharing our lives with Betty for just over three months and honestly we couldn’t be happier.

Betty Blue

Betty’s an eager to please, not so little goof-ball, who knows she’s got us wrapped around her paw. Her clumsy gait and big happy smile are so endearing I can’t imagine our lives without her. A gentle love bug whose tail starts thumping the second you say her name, she’s brought much joy into our home.

Betty and Ella (our feline baby) co-exist better than I could have asked for, and I am so appreciative to PAWS staff, who spent a good hour talking me through proper cat/dog introductions. As I think in most households, our cat tends to call the shots, and Betty for the most part has been extremely respectful of Ella’s boundaries. I don’t see the two of them cuddling up anytime soon, but they co-exist peacefully together.

On a side note, when Betty first arrived we purchased three large dog beds for different rooms of the house; she immediately decided the tiny cat bed was the best option (pictured, below) and chose that instead (the fact Betty is 70lbs and doesn’t fully fit in the 10lb cat’s bed didn’t seem to bother Betty one bit).


Betty’s an avid swimmer who loves car rides, walks in the neighborhood park, and overnight camping trips; although why one would want to leave a warm comfy bed to sleep on the ground in a tent is still beyond her! 

Betty’s left her mark on Cougar Rock Campground and Paradise at Mt. Rainier, and she’s been an excellent travel partner on our adventures.

7.  Betty Exploring the Beach

Her grandparents live on beach front property near Hood Canal and she tries her best to swim straight out to sea whenever we visit. Try as she might, she still hasn’t figured out how to move the buoys, which I can only assume from her perspective look like giant toy balls. She also has a habit of dragging to shore driftwood double or even triple her size; what she needs a log that large for is still a mystery to us!

Betty-Hydrotherapy2Betty’s still on medication daily, and will be most likely for the rest of her life. She has a bit of trouble going down stairs when excited, as her momentum and exuberance tend to get the best of her two front legs but—for the most part—Betty doesn’t let her injuries bother her.

We’ve introduced hydrotherapy sessions (pictured right), which are a fantastic workout for her and include massages while in a warm salt water pool.

While the weather’s still good though we’ll be trying to get her back in the ocean swimming as much as possible!

Since bringing her home, Betty has reaffirmed our decision to adopt every day, and we feel lucky to have her.

Thank you everyone was involved in her rescue and transport from California, and those who supported her care, we’re so grateful to share our hearts with her!

If ever proof was needed to reinforce the saying "those who say money can't buy happiness have never paid an adoption fee", this is it. Thank YOU Christine – we're so very grateful that Betty Blue found you.

Find your Betty Blue todayadopt.

Donate now and help us continue providing a safe place for companion animals in need until they find their forever families.

Betty Blue is our PAWS 2016 Calendar cover star!  Stop by the Calendar Release Party to celebrate with us and help raise funds for homeless, sick and injured animals.

By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist

As summer moves forward, things at PAWS Wildlife Center are getting busier and busier. We’re currently treating hundreds of patients and releasing them by the dozens every week. Our baby bird nursery is alive with the sounds of hungry chicks, from the pool pad you can hear the splashes of seal pups, and on top of the hill you can hear the rustling of deer fawns exploring.


Currently we’re raising five deer fawns in the seclusion of our deer pen. There are four Columbian Black-tailed Deer (pictured, above) from the west side of the Cascades, and one Mule Deer from the east side; all orphaned. Some were found on the side of the road after their mother was hit by a car while others were found alone, sick and dehydrated.

The first fawn came to us on May 24, right at the beginning of the deer birthing season. He was a small spotted fawn weighing only 7.5 pounds. Just four days later, a small female was transferred to us from Second Chance Wildlife Care Center in Snohomish, WA so they could grow up together and learn from each other.

By July 7, we were at capacity.


It’s very important when raising these deer fawns that they don’t become habituated to humans. To prevent this they’re housed in a large specialized deer pen that includes native plants for them to nibble on and hide in (pictured, above). This stimulates natural behaviors they’ll need to survive in the wild.

As the video below shows, there’s also a specialized bottle rack so we can feed them formula out of sight before they're weaned.

Can't see the video above? Trying watching on our PAWS Wildlife Vimeo channel.

With the traumatic experiences that brought them to PAWS behind them, all five deer are doing well. They move in a herd through their enclosure, exploring and snoozing under cover during the heat of the day.

They'll stay with us until the fall when they'll be strong enough and mature enough to return to the woodlands of Washington.

Inspired by our work? Consider making a donation today to help us continue providing vital care to wild animals in need.

Found a wild animal in need? Find out how PAWS can help.

Interested in a career in wildlife rehabilitation? Check out internship/externship opportunities at PAWS.

By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist

We all know summer in the Pacific Northwest is the best time of year and, with all of the sunny days we’re enjoying right now, people are spending a lot more time outdoors. Not surprising given all the activities there are to offer here in Washington!

If you’re a wildlife lover this a great time of year to tour Western Washington and see a diversity of wildlife. Whether you’re a fan of raptors, waterfowl, amphibians or marine mammals there’s a place to enjoy them all.

Here are a few hot spots filled with wildlife to enjoy:

North Western Washington

Semiahmoo Park and Museum
This is a long sand spit with tidelands, mudflats and sandy beaches near the border of Washington and Canada. Take a short walk along the spit and enjoy marine life including Harbor Seals (pictured below), clams, crabs, seabirds and even a few shore birds.


Whatcom Wildlife Area: Lake Terrell Unit
Just north of Bellingham you’ll find this shallow lake with a peat bog surrounded by forest and grasslands. There are a plethora of wildlife species to enjoy here including river otters, beavers, painted turtles, salamanders, songbirds and waterfowl.

Deception Pass
Although Deception Pass is famous for its picturesque bridge, it’s also a fantastic place to view wildlife. This old growth forest also has a rocky shoreline and several freshwater lakes. There’s an array of marine and bird life to be seen here including sea cucumbers, sea stars, eagles, osprey, owls and deer.

Central Western Washington

Carkeek Park
This 220 acre park located in north Seattle not only has a rocky beach but also deciduous forest, meadows and grassland hosting a plethora of species. Here you can not only see moon snails, acorn barnacles and clams, but also seabirds, songbirds, and some waterfowl.

Discovery Park 
A 534 acre park in Seattle, Discovery Park has a variety of habitats including mixed woodlands, streams, meadows, and rocky beaches. You have the opportunity to see tidal pools with marine life, river otters, mountain beaver and owls, just to name a few.


West Hylebos Wetland Park
Forest Park is home to this 120 acre wetland home to an array of amphibian and reptile species including red legged frogs, northwest salamanders, painted turtles and alligator lizards. Aquatic mammals such as muskrats, minks, weasels and beavers can also be spotted in the riparian streams.

South Western Washington

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Located just east of Olympia this 3,000 acre wildlife refuge is a birder’s dream. It encompasses salt and freshwater marshes, mixed forest, mudflats, riparian zones and woodlands. Raptors, woodpeckers (like the Pileated Woodpecker pictured below), waterfowl, river otters, salmon and deer all call this diversity of habitats home.


Lewis & Clark State Park
Named for the two pioneers of the west this old growth forest park is home to bald eagles, hawks, owls, black bears, coyotes, deer and Douglas squirrels. The park has an interpretive trail that will help you learn about these species and more.

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
This wildlife refuge is located in the Columbia River floodplain in southern Washington. Year round you can see waterfowl, raptors, coyotes (pictured below), river otters and herons.


Once you've picked your perfect spot to explore, how do you make the most of your wildlife viewing expedition? Here are some top tips from our experts at PAWS Wildlife Center:

  • Viewing is best at dawn and dusk.
  • Check the tidal phase if going to a marine park. 
  • Observe wildlife from a distance – if they react to your movement you’re too close. 
  • Be patient and move slowly and quietly. 
  • Use field guides to learn about wildlife. 
  • Be considerate while you're a guest in our wild neighbors' home – don't feed, touch, approach, or chase wildlife.

Enjoy this summer and the habitats and wildlife Washington has to offer! 

Inspired by our work? Consider making a donation today to help us continue providing vital care to wild animals in need.

Found a wild animal in need? Find out how PAWS can help.

Interested in a career in wildlife rehabilitation? Check out internship/externship opportunities at PAWS.

By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist

Summer is in full swing in the Seattle area and that means Harbor Seals are having their pups. You may have already started seeing adults more often in the water and snoozing on the beach.

Chubby Harbor Seal females haul out and give birth to one pup during the summer along the coast. They then nurse their pup for an average of 24 days, during which time pups gain between 1.1 and 1.3 pounds per day. They're able to gain so much weight due to the high fat content of the female’s milk.


Pictured: our first Harbor Seal pup of the season, read on for his rescue story

As you can imagine, this takes a lot of time and energy from the female, who cares for her pup by herself. To keep up with the demands of her hungry pup, during the nursing period, females must leave their babies alone on the beach for hours at a time to forage. During this time pups sleep on the beach awaiting their mothers’ return. This is typically when people see baby seals alone on the beach.

Harbor seals, like every other marine mammal, are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act which prohibits approaching, touching and harassing them at any time. You can, however, quietly observe them from 100 yards away.

Fourth of July is a particularly difficult time of year for seals, with fireworks and beach parties causing pups to be abandoned every year. Check out this blog by Seal Sitters for advice on celebrating responsibly.

If you believe you've found an injured adult—or a pup who's been unattended by its mother for more than 48 hours—contact Sno-King Marine Mammal Response at 206.695.2277 or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Seal Hotline at 1.866.767.6114.

Sometimes Harbor Seal pups are deemed abandoned by NOAA Fisheries and brought to local wildlife centers for rehabilitation. PAWS Wildlife Center is one of two centers in Washington state permitted to take in seals.

We just received our first Harbor Seal pup of the season on June 26th. This male pup (pictured below) was seen alone trying to crawl up a cement pillar offshore, which is no place for a seal pup.


Image kindly provided by Robin Lindsey, Seal Sitters

As soon as the frightened seal pup was reported to Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network they responded right away, erecting a large tape perimeter to keep people away as they watched for any signs of mom.

They kept a close eye on the pup for over 24 hours and yet no mom appeared. Due to the very public location of this pup in Lincoln Park, NOAA deemed him a candidate for rehabilitation and he was transported to PAWS.


On arrival he had a few puncture wounds on his head and tail, he weighed just over 18 pounds, and was pretty hungry (intake examination pictured above). His wounds were cleaned and he was given fluids to stabilize him for the night.

Currently he is doing well and adjusting to the outside pool where he spends his days, swimming, sunning, and snoozing.

Inspired by our work? Consider making a donation today to help us continue providing vital care to wild animals in need.

Found a wild animal in need? Find out how PAWS can help.

Interested in a career in wildlife rehabilitation? Check out internship/externship opportunities at PAWS.

By Katherine Spink, PAWS Staff

In September 2012, Camille decided she was finally ready for the responsibility of a four-legged companion and began what she expected to be a lengthy search for the perfect partner. Little did she know she was only a shelter away from her happy union with a feline friend.

Three years on, Camille looks back on life with Harper (now Scout)...

Scout by melissa - aug 3, 2013 KS edit

What made you decide to adopt from a shelter?
I didn't have a specific breed I was looking for and I wanted an adult cat. Plus, I know that shelters are overflowing with animals. It seemed like a no brainer to me.

What brought you to PAWS?
I had been going to adoption fairs and scouring for a couple months and was already well aware of PAWS.

When I finally got serious about adopting, I chose to go to PAWS in Lynnwood first because I lived close by...but I honestly didn't expect to find my cat that quickly! I assumed I would have to hit up a couple other shelters (including PAWS Cat City in Seattle) before I found "the one."

What was it that most attracted you to Harper?
How calm and relaxed she appeared. I grew up with dogs and never had a cat before so I was really hoping to find one that wouldn't be too crazy.

While I was at PAWS I also considered another cat who was far more rambunctious when I had some one on one time with him. While he was adorable, I thought "Harper" was more ideal for a beginner cat owner. I was 100% correct! Her personality was what sold me, I honestly didn't even realize how pretty she was until I brought her home.

Scout licking paw KS edit

How did Harper become Scout? 
I've always thought it was a cute name ever since I read "To Kill a Mockingbird" back in high school. I told myself if I ever got a pet that Scout would be top on the list of names I would consider.

How would you describe her personality?
She really has the sweetest disposition and is very affectionate. She's pretty social too and never hides from people when they come to visit. She likes to be the center of attention.

Just the other day, two guys from the cable company were over fixing some wireless internet issues and I swear she was flirting her fuzzy butt off the entire time! She's also a bit of a goofball... ok, more than just a bit.

Scout the Huntress from Camille on Vimeo.

Of course she has her sassy moments too, but those are few and far between. She's a sweetheart the majority of the time.

How was your adoption experience with PAWS?
It was very positive. I was a little worried because I never had a cat, but I clearly did my homework before I got there so I think the gentleman that helped me with the adoption was pretty happy about that and knew I wasn't making a rash decision.

How was your journey home and settling in together?
The whole drive home after the adoption she was meowing up a storm, but once I let her out of her carrier she went straight into exploring the whole house. After she finished she just relaxed and hung out with me the rest of the day...and it's been that way ever since!

I think I was more stressed out than she was when I first brought her home. I’d been talking about getting a cat for months, and when I finally did I couldn't believe she was there! I was just in awe of her and she wrapped me around her little paw in no time.

Scout under chair KS edit

We bonded very quickly. She honestly behaved as if she's known me since kittenhood. She didn't hide under the bed or have any behavior issues due to a new environment. She settled in beautifully.

Any funny moments in your life together so far?
There was a bit of kitty drama going on a couple months back. A neighborhood cat kept coming around our apartment looking up at our windows at night and Scout would lose her mind whenever she saw it. It was like Romeo and Juliet except Juliet wasn't interested and threw a temper tantrum whenever Romeo stopped by. Eventually Romeo got tired of rejection and had his revenge by peeing on Juliet's welcome mat. True story.

How has Scout changed your life?
I've actually noticed I'm less stressed out and a lot happier. She's been a wonderful companion and whenever I'm in a bad mood, I just need to look at her and I can't help but smile.

Sleepy Kitty from Camille on Vimeo.

What advice do you have for people considering adopting a cat?
I still consider myself a "newbie" when it comes to cat ownership but I learn every day. Like not to freak out over every little thing. I didn't know that cats shed more than just their fur. When I found one of Scout’s claws (which, I'd later discover, was a claw sheath) in the carpet, I was so upset I thought she was hurt! Turns out it's totally normal and a good thing.

Most importantly, be sure you're ready for the responsibility and pick the right cat that’s going to be the happiest with what you can provide for them. It took me over 10 years after I moved out of my parents’ house to decide I was ready to have my first pet.

This animal will depend on you to take care of them and to keep them safe and happy. Trust me, if you’re able to do that successfully, the rewards will be well worth it. There's nothing like it in the world. The best decision I ever made in my life was going to PAWS that September day and adopting my girl.

Thanks for sharing this great story Camille, and for choosing to give a much-needed second chance to an animal in need. We're delighted to have helped you find your perfect forever feline, and wish you many more years of goofball-ness ahead! Readers, you can follow Scout (AKA @sillykittyscout) on Instagram.

Find your Scout todayadopt.

Donate now and help us continue providing a safe place for companion animals in need until they find their forever families.

By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist

When you think about ducks or waterfowl the first duck that comes to mind is probably your run-of-the-mill mallard; the most commonly seen ducks in the United States. However there are over 25 different species of ducks in the U.S. and they are all quite unique.

Some of the more magnificent looking are the mergansers or saw-billed ducks.

Mergansers are diving waterfowl who feed on an array of small to medium sized fish they catch under water. They are sometimes called saw-billed because their bill is narrow, long, serrated and has a hooked tip adapted for catching fish.

There are three species of mergansers found across the United States which also reside right here in Washington. Already this summer PAWS Wildlife Center has cared for two of these species.

Hooded Merganser – the North American endemic
Hooded Mergansers are the smallest merganser and their range is restricted to North America. During the breeding season hooded drakes are easily distinguishable because of their striking black and white head (pictured below).


Females nest in tree cavities and are known to lay eggs in nests that don’t belong to them. Their ducklings leap from the nest high above the ground when they are just one day old.

Hooded Mergansers have been studied for over 40 years and have helped researchers understand how acid precipitation influences ecosystem processes, providing evidence of the build-up of chemical contaminants in different habitats.

Red-breasted Merganser – the swift world traveler
Red-breasted Mergansers (ducklings pictured below during rehab at PAWS) are a large merganser with a shaggy crest. Drakes have a white ring around their neck, an iridescent green head and orange bill during the breeding season.


They prefer a more marine habitat, nest on the ground and migrate further than the other merganser species found in North America.

They are also the fasted duck ever recorded and can attain a top airspeed of 100 mph!

Common Merganser – the not so common merganser
Despite their name Common Mergansers (pictured below) are not quite so common; during most of the year they spend their time on the open water. During the breeding season drakes are snowy white with a very dark green head and reddish-orange bill.


Females nest in tree cavities up to 100 feet above the ground and their ducklings leap from the nest when they are one day old. Females will protect their ducklings but they find all their own food.

PAWS Wildlife Center recently released four juvenile Hooded Mergansers that we received as small ducklings. They were found alone in a storm drain in Woodinville. After 36 days in our care they were returned back to the wild among other ducks - and, judging by the speed they left their carrier (video below), were very happy to be home!

Can't see the video above? Try watching it on our Vimeo channel.

Currently we are caring for a lone Hooded Merganser and five Red-breasted Mergansers. The Hooded Merganser was found alone and too young to survive on his own and the Red-breasted were found alone running in the road.

After just a few more weeks in our care all six of these magnificent mergansers will be released back to the wild to frolic with other ducks their own age.

Inspired by our work? Consider making a donation today to help us continue providing vital care to wild animals in need.

Found a wild animal in need? Find out how PAWS can help.

Interested in a career in wildlife rehabilitation? Check out internship/externship opportunities at PAWS.

By Sean Twohy, PAWS Wildlife Center Volunteer

Making wild animals a part of your life can be a rewarding and gratifying experience!

The act of watching birds build a nest or seeing salmon in a stream can provide a sense of connectedness to the world around us – and a welcome break from the day-to-day grind of working in an office (or daily life in a bustling city like Seattle!).

Even more, these interactions lead to a sense of responsibility and community toward the other creatures who share our space. So, how can you make the most of your wildlife watching?

Here are some things to consider:

Keep a safe distance
Keeping enough space between you and wildlife ensures that whatever you’re watching can continue its natural behavior without feeling threatened or disturbed enough to flee.


Perhaps most importantly, by keeping a respectful distance you will reduce the likelihood of that wild animal becoming habituated to human presence – something that could negatively impact its survival. While there's no set standard, if the animal you’re watching becomes agitated or changes its behavior, you’re probably too close.

Don’t feed your wild neighbors
This can happen accidentally (through leaving garbage bins open or pet food outside) or on purpose; either way, it’s generally best to leave wild animals to find their own food to avoid some of the following problems:

  • The animals start to rely on a food source that may disappear (when you go on vacation)
  • The animals may lose their fear of people (which can disrupt an otherwise peaceful coexistence between wildlife and humans in a particular area or neighborhood)
  • Feeding wildlife can have unforeseen consequences on the environment (did you know that—as well as being unhealthy for them—bread left behind by ducks causes spikes in algae and harmful bacteria, which can kill off fish and make the water dangerous for swimmers?)


Keep pets away – ideally inside!
Even the most placid and sweet-natured of pets can pose a risk to wildlife (did you know that cats are the number one killer of suburban birds?), and wildlife injuring or even killing our pets can be a distressing fact of life for many living here in the Pacific Northwest.

To enjoy wildlife on your own doorstep, be sure that any pets kept outside are safely enclosed in your yard at all times, and brought in at night. Better still—for cat owners—consider transitioning your feline friend from an outdoor to an indoor lifestyle.


Provide a natural backyard habitat
While a large green lawn has been the standard of American tradition for some time, it’s not the most enriching environment for wildlife.

If you’d like to have more wild neighbors coming to visit, consider planting borders of native flowers and foliage, don’t sweep up those fallen leaves quite so often, and maximize any sources of moisture such as water features or streams.


Trees (even dead ones) and native foliage will give birds, bats and other creatures many a useful nesting, resting or hiding spot!

Last but not least… be aware! You’re often closer than you think to a wide variety of wildlife. Keep your eyes and ears open to everything around you, and the animal’s well-being at the forefront of your mind, and your experience with it can be a great one.

Found a wild animal you think needs help? Learn how PAWS can help.

Want to find out more about interacting with wildlife? Read our do's and don'ts online guidance.

Interested in a career in wildlife rehabilitation? Check out internship/externship opportunities at PAWS.