314 posts categorized in "Wildlife"

By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist

What’s happening in Washington this month? Large congregations of birds are starting to come together in preparation for their long journey south this fall.

Some of the more obvious congregations you will see, even in our urban environment, are those of swallows.

Barn Swallow Fledgling_blog Barn Swallow Fledgeling

Seven members of the swallow family breed in Washington each year (Violet-green, Cliff, Barn, Bank, Tree, Northern Rough-winged, and Purple Marten). You may have seen these birds swooping down like little fighter jets hunting for insects in open areas and seen their mud nests clinging to the sides of buildings and under bridges.

In late summer Swallows begin to join together on power lines along the road before they start their fall migration to Central and South America where insects are more abundant.

Cliff Swallow Trestle collage Jamie Bails photos
 Photo by: Jamie Bails WDFW Biologist

Some species of swallows, such as Violet-green and Cliff seem to thrive in urban environments and are seen there more readily. Recently Jamie Bails, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Habitat Biologist, discovered a nesting colony of Cliff Swallows in the most unlikely of places; tucked underneath a trestle on State Route 2 between Everett and Snohomish (pictured above). You can find out more about this fascinating story at WDFW Crossing Paths August 2015.

Cliff swallows traditionally nest on cliff sides and inside canyons. The increase in concrete buildings and bridges has provided more habitat options. This has resulted in a expansion of their range and evolution toward a smaller body size with longer wingspan to help them avoid speeding cars.

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Although Cliff Swallows are numerous in the Seattle area we rarely receive them at PAWS Wildlife Center, however we do frequently receive Violet-green Swallows aptly named for their purplish green coloration. This year we received over forty, twenty-nine of which were juveniles (pictured above). This is twice as many as we have ever received in any one year.

Violet-green Swallow_glove_smallSimilar to the Cliff Swallow, Violet-greens thrive in urban environments due to their preference for open areas. Dr. John Marzluff, an author and professor at University of Washington, states in his book Welcome to Subirdia that Violet-green Swallows are the “kings of Subirdia” making up eight percent of all birds living in developments after construction. In fact, swallows of all types are the one of the most abundant urban birds.

Violet-green’s ability to thrive in a more urban environment is attributed to their exploitation of human-made nest cavities in boxes, soffits and streetlamps.

As you spend these last weeks of summer enjoying the outdoors stop to take a look around you and see if you can spot any of these little swallows zipping through the air. I bet you will see some in the most unlikely of places.

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!  

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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!

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

Harbor-Seal

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.

Otters

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.

Pileated-Woodpecker

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.

Coyote

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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).

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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.

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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.

Common-Merganser-KS

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.

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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?)

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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.

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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.

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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.


By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist

As an organization who rehabilitates bears, we couldn't let Bear Awareness Week in Washington go by without sharing some top tips and fascinating facts to help you be more bear aware this summer. 

There are two species of bears in Washington - Grizzly and Black Bears. Grizzlies in western Washington spend all of their time high up in the cascades and are hardly seen. And, although Black Bears tend to avoid contact with humans, they have adapted to living in closer proximity to us due to habitat loss and the expansion of human populations into their habitat.

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Grizzly Bears are federally listed as threatened and state listed as endangered. There is estimated to be less than one hundred Grizzly Bears in Washington; half live in the North Cascades and the other half in the Selkirk Ecosystem on the Washington Idaho border. Grizzly bears have almost been hunted to extinction in the lower 48 states and have lost 98% of their original habitat.

Black Bears, on the other hand, are the most common and widely distributed bear in North America. It's estimated there are as many as 25,000 in Washington. Black Bears are classified as a game species in Washington and there is an annual hunting season.

If you spend a lot of time outside this summer in bear country keep these things in mind:

  • Do not hike alone 
  • Make noise on the trail 
  • Carry bear spray and have it accessible 
  • Never run from a bear

Although Black Bears are numerous in Washington and Oregon, sometimes injured individuals and orphans need our help.

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Since 1986 PAWS has successfully rehabilitated and released 78 Black Bears back to the mountains of Washington and Oregon. We recently released five cubs, a few of which we'd been caring for since last spring.

As you can imagine, rehabilitating bears is no small task and we've developed some very strict guidelines for the staff who care for them. Bears must have their enclosures cleaned daily and they must be isolated as much as possible from humans.

To make sure the bears do not become habituated to humans, we've developed a special system to move our patients from one enclosure to another so they can be cleaned and fed without contact. It takes several hours each day to complete these tasks.

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You may ask "How do you feed bears?". Well, it’s definitely not as simple as feeding a dog or cat! Staff actually have to think like a bear and hide the food in their enclosures, encouraging them to use their senses to search for food as they would in the wild. We even put fish in small pools where the bears have to actually search and “fish” them out (see video below).

We typically receive orphaned cubs here at PAWS, which can spend anywhere from six months to a year in our care. This requires a lot of investment in food! Growing bear cubs can consume over 30 lbs of food a week and PAWS can house up to seven at one time. That's over 200 lbs of food a week for several months!

All of this hard work leads up to the eventual release of the bears back to their natural habitat, far up in the mountains away from humans. We have help from state agencies in both Washington and Oregon to find suitable release sites for the bears - sites where they'll have the best chance at a fresh start in the wild. 

Want to be even more bear aware? Visit Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Western Wildlife Outreach.

Inspired by our work with bears? 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

At PAWS Wildlife Center we understand how important collaborating with outside organizations is to having a successful wildlife rehabilitation program.

We often work with other wildlife rehabilitation centers in our area, transferring young animals so they can grow up with conspecifics (members of the same species). This is essential to growing babies as it greatly reduces the likelihood of them becoming used to human contact. They also learn the skills they'll need to survive in the wild from each other.

So far in 2015 we’ve transferred out a young coyote to grow up with eight adopted siblings at Sarvey Wildlife Care Center and a river otter pup. We’ve transferred in a young barn owlet (pictured below) and a Hooded Merganser duckling to grow up with the ones we’re currently housing.

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When releasing wildlife we reach outside of the rehabilitation world, and work very closely with state and county agencies—as well as nonprofit organizations—to find suitable release sites for our patients.

It’s important that our patients go back to the exact location they came from; but sometimes this isn’t possible. For these cases we rely on other organizations to assist us in finding areas that not only have suitable habitat but are also, for some species, a place away from high human activity.

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King County Parks has been very helpful in helping us release Raccoons, Black Tailed Deer, River Otters and even Hummingbirds on their park lands. 

The Falcon Research Group has helped us return Peregrine Falcons back to their nests and reunite Cooper’s Hawks with their siblings in the wild.

We collaborate with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association for releasing marine mammals rehabilitated at PAWS.

When it comes to Black Bear releases, we seek assistance from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and their Karelian Bear Dog Program.

Karelian Bear Dogs are trained from a young age to seek out cougars and bears, assist wildlife officers and biologists with tracking and releasing wildlife, and detect evidence used in criminal cases. 

Bear releases are our biggest of the year, and we sometimes release as many as five in one day – quite the operation! Taken high up in the mountains, away from people near their point of origin, the presence of these impressive dogs (pictured above) helps ensure that the bears are less likely to cause conflicts and more likely to stay away from humans after their return to the wild. 

It can often to take a village to save the lives of our wild neighbors. Thanks to this supportive network of organizations working closely together, wildlife here in the Pacific Northwest can continue to thrive. 

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

You may remember, back in early October of 2014, PAWS Wildlife Center received a patient we'd never treated before – a Steller Sea Lion pup, estimated to be only four months old. Today we look back at his rehabilitation and share the happy ending that saw him return to Washington waters this spring.

Found alone on a beach in southwest Washington, the pup was brought to PAWS by a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) marine mammal biologist for treatment.

Below is one of the pictures we took of him just after he arrived. He was very thin, weak, anemic, had multiple lacerations, and only weighed 68 lbs. A healthy Steller Sea Lion at that age should weigh at least twice that much.

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Examined on intake by our veterinarian team, and given fluids and a specialized formula, PAWS staff worked diligently over the next few days to stabilize the pup and get him on solid food. With every feeding he regained his strength and, after a week, he was happily eating fish and had gained over 15 lbs.

Adult male Stellers can weigh up to 2,500 lbs so, even in the short amount of time he would spend with us, we knew this patient was going to grow quite a bit! With this in mind, he was moved to a larger enclosure with a more suitable pool for swimming: 


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

Steller Sea Lions are very social and interact with other pinnipeds (a carnivorous aquatic mammal of the order Pinnipedia, such as the Harbor Seal) in the wild. Since our sea lion patient was so young, it was extremely important that he be exposed to other sea lions. Given it was unlikely we'd get another one during that time of year, it was decided he'd be transferred to a facility where he could be housed with others like him until his release back in Washington.

On November 14 he was flown—as part of a U.S. Coast Guard training mission—to California to continue his long term rehabilitation at The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC). 

In his four months there—housed in a large pool (pictured below) where he could socialize with California Sea Lions and Northern Fur Seals—he gained over 150 lbs, and developed skills he'd need to survive on his own in the wild (Stellers at this age would still be learning these skills from their mom).

SSL-at-TMMC-in-poolPhoto reproduced courtesy of The Marine Mammal Center

On April 17, the eight-month-old, 300 lb male Steller sea lion pup was transported back to Washington by WDFW – and PAWS was along for the ride. During his transport the Steller rested peacefully in his transport crate, intermittently watching the world go by through the small slats (see below). Though he made sure to announce his presence every time the team stopped for gas or food along the way!

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He was released near where he was rescued on the Southwest coast. Before his release he was affixed with a GPS transmitter that will allow biologists to track his movements and see how he is does in the future.

Currently he’s off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula. You can track his movements too using this link.

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Although Steller Sea Lions are no longer federally listed in the Pacific Northwest, they are still a very important part of the marine ecosystem and are still threatened by habitat degradation, ship strikes and over fishing.

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We were thrilled to be a part of this collaborative effort between NOAA, WDFW, Seattle Aquarium, TMMC and the U.S. Coast Guard – rehabilitating and returning this Steller Sea Lion back to Washington waters where he belongs.

Found a marine mammal you think needs help? Find out what to do.

Help us continue providing care to wild animals in need. Donate here.

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