A Sneak Peek into PAWS New Wildlife Center in Snohomish

Loving domestic and wild animals and helping those in need whenever possible is sometimes challenging, heartbreaking, and rewarding.

In my early adult years, I worked in emergency services and quickly became known as someone who would go out if an animal needed assistance at a time when agencies that specialized in that type of work were stretched thin and often unavailable.

I climbed into dumpsters to rescue kittens and relocated a duck family who found themselves in a complex apartment pool with kids throwing rocks at them. I took an 8-foot Burmese python into my home that police officers found in a trash can, helped free a deer caught in a fence, and hand-raised a litter of baby squirrels when their mother died.

So, when I woke up to a text from my friend Abbey about a bald eagle needing help, I didn’t hesitate. Sadly, that story didn’t have a happy ending, but I know that my effort and the support of others in the community meant an animal didn’t suffer. The opportunity to do my part to help that animal was thanks to the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Lynnwood.

In addition to sheltering and adopting homeless dogs and cats, PAWS rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife. In 1967, PAWS came to be when its founder, Virginia Knouse, and friends recognized the need to promote spay and neuter services to help control pet overpopulation. They started having rummage sales to raise money to pay for these services, which led to the opening of a thrift store.

However, many people thought they were a shelter and would show up with cats, dogs, kittens and puppies to surrender. Two years later, the shelter was built at its current Lynnwood location. In 1981, they became involved in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, working closely with agencies like the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and other rehabilitation facilities.

While most of their work is done behind the scenes, they’ve had high-profile rescues, including two bear cubs that sustained severe burns from the 2021 Twenty-Five Mile Fire in Lake Chelan. Thanks to the excellent care they received, the WDFW agent who brought them to PAWS for care was able to release them to the wild the following year. The story was covered in a Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom episode.

While I knew that PAWS was doing amazing work with wildlife in need, I had no idea how much they were doing. According to Andi Anderson, Director of Philanthropy, PAWS receives around 5,000 wild animals (representing over 150 different species) yearly at the PAWS Wildlife Center. In addition to taking in those orphaned, injured, and sick wild animals, the PAWS Wildlife team also answers around 14,000 phone calls from people seeking advice or answers to their questions about wildlife.

They are also one of only two facilities in Washington State to rehabilitate American Black Bears and marine animals. Currently, these services are being provided at their current Wildlife Center, which sits on just 3.5 acres. To say additional space has been needed for some time would be an understatement. Thankfully, that space is becoming a reality.

When Living Snoqualmie’s Melissa reached out to PAWS for additional details on the eagle I’d transported there, they invited her to tour their still-under-construction Wildlife Center in Snohomish. I had the opportunity to tag along.

When we arrived at the new property, I was in awe of how much room they would have. The property, dedicated exclusively to wildlife, has multiple well-planned buildings and enclosures on 25 acres. PAWS met with architects and other rehabilitation facilities and called upon their knowledge to consider every detail of the new facility.

The main building has a kitchen, laundry room, and an intake room equipped to address any serious needs immediately upon arrival. There are quiet rooms, which allow stressed animals to rest and isolation rooms.

This building will also house a large surgery and a state-of-the-art digital X-ray room. The hallway is wide to allow for passing traffic, movement of large animals and plenty of room to swing gurneys through wide doorways, all things the current building doesn’t offer due to lack of space.

Still under construction are a wildlife care unit and an aquatic facility offering shallow and deep pools to rehabilitate waterfowl and marine mammals.

After touring the main building, we began a walking tour of the grounds. Thoughtfully designed enclosures are designed to be expandable based on their inhabitants’ needs.

The carnivore buildings have attached outdoor spaces and connect with sliding panels that can be opened or closed to allow for movement or restriction. There is even radiant floor heating in multiple areas so that animals with difficulty maintaining their temperature or who want to get cozy have a warm space to lie down.

Several designs struck me as particularly ingenious. The large Raptor building has a full-circle flight area. This space allows larger raptors, like eagles, additional room to fly for extended periods versus just back and forth. The space is critical for building wing strength, so they are well prepared for release back into the wild.

Several bird enclosures are partitioned but have adjoining windows that can be opened, offering birds double or triple the enclosure space. In one of the enclosures is an area specifically designed for woodpeckers, who spend most of their time on the sides of trees vs. perched on branches.

PAWS Wildlife Director Jennifer Convy and her wildlife team proposed installing vertical wood slats with horizontal cuts in them to mimic a natural environment for these birds. It was incredibly successful and adopted widely as a best practice by other bird rehabilitation facilities.

Currently, the bears have limited space at the Lynnwood Wildlife Center. Their enclosure is 800 square feet, and while they are exposed to the outdoors and the elements, there is no outdoor pasture space. The new bear enclosure offers 2,550 square feet of indoor space and two outdoor enclosures, each approximately 1/3 acre, with room to expand in the future.    

While there isn’t a specific move-in date, the hope is to transition to the new Wildlife Center in time for the 2024 baby wildlife season, which starts in April/May.  

PAWS is a non-profit that relies on donations and grants to cover expenses. The cost for the new wildlife center is $45 million, but thanks to their many supporters and careful money management over the years, PAWS only needs about $1 million to complete the project.

How can you help PAWS in their mission to rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned, sick or injured wildlife?

Donations keep PAWS going. There are many ways to donate, from single donations to monthly commitment donations, employer-matching gifts, and more.

Another great way to support PAWS is to volunteer. While volunteers are needed year-round, there is an urgent need now as this is their busiest time of year. There are opportunities for all skills and physical abilities.

I plan to become a regularly scheduled volunteer at the Wildlife Center. I just completed New Volunteer Orientation, and next up is a Wildlife Info Session. After that session, I’ll pay a $25 registration fee to help cover the costs of bringing on a new volunteer. A background check will be done, and I can then attend training and work volunteer shifts.

I’m looking forward to supporting PAWS in its mission to rehabilitate orphaned and injured wildlife and educate the community to inspire compassionate action for animals.

[Guest post by Snoqualmie resident and fellow wildlife enthusiast Susan Burk]

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  • The most rewarding volunteer work I have ever done. 7 years at Sarvey Wildlife, I miss it! Much needed and love knowing there are more opportunities to help.

  • This is my second year volunteering at the PAWS wildlife center, and feel blessed to be able to be part of an amazingly caring team of volunteers. Thus new center will help acheive saving even more lives.

  • Living Snoqualmie