April 17 is National Bat Appreciation Day so here at PAWS we are celebrating all things bats.
Bats are in the Chiroptera family which includes about 1,240 species around the world; 40 of which are found in North America. The Pacific Northwest is home to 14 species, of which the Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) is the most common (below). Bat species feed on a variety of things from nectar to insects to mammalian blood. All the species living in Washington are insectivores meaning they feed only on insects.
Because bats are active at night, insectivorous bats eat predominately mosquitoes, nocturnal beetles and moths. They are considered extremely important for pest control. A single bat for example can consume up to 2,000 mosquitoes in one night.
Some species of bats are pollinators much like bees and hummingbirds. In fact, they are very important pollinators in tropical and desert climates for plants whose flowers open at night. Bats feed on the insects living in the flowers as well as the nectar, and over 300 species of fruit depend on bats as pollinators including mangoes, bananas and guava.
PAWS Wildlife Center is no stranger to bats. On average, we receive about 50 bats a year; some of them are babies who fell from their nursery colony, some are brought in for rabies testing if there is a chance of human contact, and others are sick or injured and need care.
Bats roost in rock crevices, tree hollows, mines, caves and a variety of anthropogenic, or human, structures. In our area, they do not roost in large colonies like they do in the eastern North America where there can be thousands of bats in a single cave.
Bats in eastern North America are seeing large population declines because of White Nose Syndrome (WNS) which is a devastating disease caused by a fungus that grows on the wings and muzzles of hibernating bats causing them to come out of hibernation early. The disease was first seen in New York in 2006 and has since spread to 30 states and 5 Canadian providences killing an estimated 6 million bats.
In 2016 Washington joined the list of states affected with WNS when a Little Brown Bat (below) was brought to PAWS Wildlife Center and died in care. It was confirmed that he did indeed have WNS. Since then the state and federal agencies along with wildlife rehabilitation centers in the area are being very vigilent, monitoring bats that come in for care as well as bats in the wild to document any more cases. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking anyone who comes across a sick or dead bat or find a group of bats to report it to them. Information about that can be found here.
If you want to attract these critters to your yard, there is a simple way to do so; by building them a bat box. Since bats are nocturnal they need a safe place to roost during the day. With deforestation and the spread of urban areas, they are losing their habitat so it is more important then ever to provide safe roosting structures. You can purchase a premade bat box from several places online or you can build your own. Here at PAWS Wildlife Center we will be building and installing our very own bat box in the new PAWS wildlife garden space. The best time to hang them is in mid April when bats are starting to come out of hibernation and looking for new roosting areas and places to raise their young.
For bat house building resources and ideas be sure to check these sites out:
Last month we talked about the importance of native plant gardens, how they benefit wildlife and some gardening tips. Now, we are taking some of our own advice and creating a native species garden learning experience here at PAWS Wildlife Center.
Our property is home to many wildlife species. Some of which are here throughout the year such as Spotted Towhees, House Finches and Pacific Wrens (Above left, center, right respectively) and others arrive in the spring to raise their families like Dark-eyed Juncos, American Robins, and Black-capped Chickadees (Below left, center, right respectively). Many bird species have already returned this spring and are staking claims on territories and searching for mates. This may be very similar to what happens in your backyard habitat every year and a few enhancements can provide natural food sources and shelter for safety.
At PAWS Wildlife Center we are sprucing up our entrance to not only include a demo native species garden but also artificial homes for birds, bats and bees and examples of humane ways to keep wildlife out of your vegetable garden and what natural animal deterrents really work. We are currently in the beginning stages and have drawn up our official layout, have constructed a raised garden box and have installed our very own catio (below).
We can’t stress it enough that anyone can include features in their yard to support native wildlife and promote living with our wild neighbors humanely, even in small spaces. We hope this will inspire others to enhance their backyard habitat for their wild neighbors as well.
If you are still looking for references to help you get ideas for your backyard habitat here some we recommend:
Local gardening organization:
Tilth Alliance – great resources on many gardening topics and classes, kids section
Biologist and theorist E.O. Wilson once said “Biological diversity is the key to the maintenance of the world as we know it...Eliminate one species, and another increases to take its place. Eliminate a great many species and the local ecosystem starts to decay.”
Biodiversity is defined as the variety of life in the world or in a habitat or ecosystem. It is important because it boosts ecosystem productivity where each species plays an important role. Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms, including us.
Right here in Washington there are hundreds of native wildlife species that we coexist with. From the seabirds wintering off our coast to the songbirds at our bird feeders to the ever-elusive coyote. These species all play an important role in the environment that they live in. Seabirds are indicators of the health of the marine environment. They will be the first to be affected if something is wrong because they spend most of their life at sea and rely on marine resources for food. Songbirds protect trees and other plants by preying on insects that chew leaves and harm forests. Coyotes are a keystone predator that have positive effects within an ecosystem by keeping natural areas healthy. They regulate populations of smaller predators in turn allowing the prey of smaller predators, like birds, to survive.
In a changing world, it is important for us humans to better understand and celebrate this biodiversity. We can even help promote it in our own backyards and communities by planting wildlife gardens and taking injured and orphaned wild animals to wildlife rehabilitation centers like PAWS for help.
In the past five years PAWS, has returned more than 5,800 animals back to the wild encompassing more than 165 different species. We returned these animals back to the wild so they can once again be active members within their population to help preserve the biodiversity in Washington.
Help us celebrate by checking back each day this week on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages for patient updates, inside looks and information about species we are currently treating at PAWS.
Join PAWS Wildlife Center in planting a native species garden this spring and summer!
Why are native species gardens important?
Local wildlife is facing habitat loss and fragmentation in King and Snohomish counties. Providing natural food and habitat sources using native plants will not only give you a front row seat to view our spectacular wildlife, but also support our local wild animals.
Decide which species you want to attract to your garden.
Native species gardens can attract and support a wide variety of animals from small mammals, such as Douglas Squirrels or Little Brown Bats, to birds including Anna’s Hummingbirds, Black-capped Chickadees and Dark-eyed Juncos.
Work with knowledgeable staff at a local nursery specializing in native plant species
Be careful when providing bird feeders, they may do more harm than good to our local wildlife.
If your garden will include vegetables or fruit, prepare to either share your garden with local wildlife or find humane solutions to deter them from entering your garden.
If you are having difficulty finding resources that apply to your situation, please call PAWS Wildlife Center at 425-412-4040 for assistance. Keep in mind it is not always possible to keep out all of the local wildlife, but there are natural ways to minimize attractions.
An easy way to keep out visitors from vegetable garden is using wire fencing and netting.
Bellevue Botanical Gardens: provides information on natural gardening. Visit their gardens to see examples of garden designs and to attend classes on natural gardening techniques.
We are still treating 17 of the Glaucous-winged Gulls from the Tacoma die off event. They are all regaining strength and have moved to outside enclosures.
We often see gulls flying in the sky in the Seattle, taking strolls along the beach, loafing in parking lots, and floating in the waves of Puget Sound. But have you ever wondered more about them? Gulls are one of nature’s boldest birds and there are 22 species that call North America home.
Although there are so many different species they are often lumped together and referred to as “seagulls” but this is a misnomer and an inaccurate depiction of where gulls actually live. They don’t actually go out to sea but stick to more coastal areas in lakes, rivers, marshes and cities.
The gull species we are currently treating at PAWS are Glaucous-winged Gulls and Glaucous-winged Gull hybrids. Yes, hybrids. Gulls species sometimes mate with gulls of other species producing hybrids. In our area Glaucous-winged Gulls (below left) mate with Western Gulls (below right) as their breeding grounds overlap; these gulls are often called Olympic or Puget Sound Gulls (below center). Hybrid gulls will have characteristics of both species and can sometimes be hard to identify.
Glaucous-winged gulls are a large gull with a white head and underparts. Their back if silvery gray and their wingtips are medium gray with white spots near the tip. They also have pinkish legs and adults have a yellow bill with a red spot towards the tip. Their wingspan is four to four and a half feet wide and they weigh approximately two and a half pounds. When they are young chicks they are a sandy color with brown spots to blend in with their surroundings.
Glaucous-winged Gulls are colonial nesters who make their nests in large groups on coastal cliffs, rocky islands and sometimes on flat roofs. They forage on fish and marine invertebrates and scavenge on carrion (dead animals). They capture food near the surface of the water or on shore and often steal food from other seabirds. They are opportunistic foragers and will eat whatever food is available which is why they do so well in more urban environments.
The oldest recorded Glaucous-winged Gull was at least 23 years old. It was banded in British Columbia in Washington in 2001.
2016 was another busy year at PAWS Wildlife Center. We treated more than 4,500 patients (some pictured below); 250 more patients than in 2015.
Some were patients we don’t see very often at the Wildlife Center including a Great Egret, a Guadalupe Fur Seal, a Virginia Rail and a Warbling Vireo. And others were common species including eight Bobcats, over 1,100 baby birds, 20 Cooper’s Hawks, and over 150 Dark-eyed Juncos.
A special thank you to over 300 volunteers who donated thousands of hours of their time in 2016 feeding, transporting, caring for and cleaning up after our patients to ensure they have a healthy environment in which to grow and heal.
We also want to thank people like you for your continued support so far 2017 is stacking up to be another busy year and we could not do it without you!
The holiday season represents a time of plenty for many families; big dinners, holiday pastries, warm drinks and spending time with loved ones. In the animal kingdom, this season represents quite the opposite.
Some animals migrate to more prosperous climates, while others bundle up and wait for spring. The wildlife who are determined to stay through the cold use various techniques to combat the harsh elements, one of which is torpor. Some of our biggest and smallest patients in our wildlife hospital utilize torpor to survive through the harder times.
Torpor can be related to “sleep mode” on a computer. It is an energy saving state initiated by lowering the metabolism. Many smaller species will enter a state of torpor daily, for example hummingbirds. Hummingbirds naturally have a high metabolism and body temperature, therefore they expend lots of energy during the day. At night while resting, hummingbirds go into torpor to conserve energy.
As with all torpid states, metabolism slows along with a reduction in breathing rate, heart rate, blood flow and body temperature. A body in torpor could even reach ambient temperature, which in the winter time can be near freezing. Despite these extreme changes, the small hummingbird is still able to wake itself in the morning to begin its day.
If prolonged or extended, the state of torpor is called hibernation. This term usually conjures images of large bears sleeping through subzero temperatures in a warm cave. In actuality, hibernation is not as continuous or even necessary for bears as once believed.
Misconceptions relate torpor and hibernation events to a drop in temperature, but even animals in temperate and tropical climates will hibernate. The true cause for animals to go into a torpor or hibernation is the decrease in food availability.
Bears in zoos, and even some of our bear patients here at PAWS, will not hibernate because food is provided year round. To prompt a bear in captivity to hibernate, caretakers must slowly diminish their meals.
Even the length of hibernation can change, as the animal will only halt its bouts of hibernation when there is food to sustain its survival. Bears in Alaska, who are exposed to harsher, longer winters, will hibernate for longer periods of time than bears in Washington, who experience much milder conditions. Instead of expending energy to find the scarce amount of food in the winter seasons, bears wait for food to regrow and return.
While wildlife is experiencing a torpid state, they are extremely vulnerable and unable to respond to their surroundings. If you do find any wildlife who is unresponsive or gives you cause for concern about its well-being, please call our wildlife hospital at 425.412.4040. Our expert staff will be able to advise you on how to provide the best help for the animal.
In honor of our current patient of the week and the large number of herons that were recently spotted in Edmonds our species spotlight this week focuses on Great Blue Herons.
The Great Blue Herons is the largest heron in North America with a wingspan of 5.5 to 6.5 feet, height around 4 feet and weigh roughly five pounds. They are year-round residents of Washington and can most frequently be seen anywhere there is a wetland.
They are known for their patience; you will often see them standing very still staring into the water for long periods of time. This is how they hunt; they stand very still or move very slowly waiting for prey to swim or fly by. They are carnivorous and mainly eat fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, insects and sometimes even other birds.
Great Blue Herons are solitary except during the breeding season when they typically nest in rookeries with other herons. One of these rookeries you can see in the spring and summer at the Marymoor Park.
Tis the season of giving, and we’re eternally grateful for all of the donations we receive throughout the year. We truly couldn’t do what we do without help from people like you.
Whether it’s their dollars, time or supplies people gift us, every little bit helps. If you’re wondering how you can help us directly care for our animals, we have a wish list of items we use day to day that help us comfort and care for our wild patients as well as our companion animals.
There are some specific items that could help our wildlife hospital staff enrich, feed, medicate and house our patients.
Artificial plants are something we often use in our enclosures, especially in our aviaries. It’s important to make these spaces feel like the outdoors even though the patient may be indoors. In order to make that happen, we use a mix of real and artificial plants. In our Hummingbird aviary, we even place syringes of food inside the artificial flowers to simulate feeding from a real flower. Fake plants also make great perches and cover for birds.
Garden hose reels are another important item we need at the center. As you can imagine, with all of the aquatic species we treat and the daily cleanings these patients require, we have a lot of hoses. The garden hose reels help us keep the hoses organized and off of the ground so that they last longer.
Quick-read digital thermometers are another much-used and much-needed item, and something we use daily. Whether they’ve just been admitted or are in surgery, it’s important to monitor a patients’ temperatures as it aides us in properly treating them.
We create specific diets for specific patients to help aid them in recovery and regain their strength. Items we need include Skippy Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, Nature Made Folic Acid 400 mcg tablets, corn meal, wheat bran, oat bran, thistle seed and dried egg whites. We’re also in need of fresh produce for our over wintering raccoons and other species, including apples, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, pears, zucchini, beets, spinach, cauliflower, squash, melons, pumpkin and peppers.
Please drop off your donations during PAWS’ regular business hours which you can find here. We know our wildlife patients are grateful for your support, and we value you for helping us do what we do best- care for our wildlife patients in need.
October 26 was a special day for our wildlife staff as two healthy, sub-adult Bald Eagles were released back into the wild together after several weeks of rehabilitation and care at PAWS.
This is the first time since 2009 that we’ve released more than one eagle at a time in the same location. It’s also been a record-breaking year for Bald Eagle patients, with 16 admitted to our wildlife hospital.
Both of these eagles came to PAWS too young to survive on their own, and barely old enough to fly. One was brought to us by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in August. He was found on Mission Beach unable to fly, covered with feather lice, and unable to move at all upon capture.
It seemed that this eagle was still very young and may have ended up on the ground after his initial flight out of the nest, but with no parents in sight he would not have made it on his own.
During his first couple of weeks in care, he spent a lot of time on the ground in his enclosure acting like a baby eagle. But before long he was up on high perches trying to fly. In mid-September, he was moved into our large flight pen with an adult eagle who was awaiting release, and faired very well in the pen while he gained strength.
The second eagle was transferred to us in late August from a veterinary center in Clinton, WA. He was brought to the vet clinic by animal control after being witnessed sitting on a beach for several days, unable to fly.
Upon his arrival at PAWS, he was found to have some minor feather damage and carpal (wrist) wounds. These carpal wounds would need to start healing before he could be released back to the wild, as they could inhibit his flight. They got worse before they got better, and he went through several bouts of veterinary exams, suturing and intensive care before he was ready to go.
While in care, he wore specialized bumpers on his wounds to protect them from getting bumped in the enclosure. There was risk that the wounds would reopen and we would have to start the whole process over again, delaying his release. These bumpers were so important to his recovery that he wore them until a few minutes before his release.
PAWS staff were on hand to watch them both fly free once more, released along the Skagit River where salmon are plentiful this time of year.