When anyone has a critter need in the Snoqualmie Valley, one woman is inevitably mentioned as the local expert in all things small, wild and furry. Being a massive fan of those three things, I decided I had to take the drive to see what all the fuss was about.
I pulled up to the bright purple house just outside of downtown Carnation and opened my car door to hear the whack of a screen door, a ringing phone and a woman patiently explaining how to keep an injured bunny alive.
That woman was Kathi Artus of Footprints Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Occasionally, I think I’m a busy person, but from this point forward, if I’m feeling stressed and overworked, I’m going to remind myself that this tiny purple-haired woman exists and settle myself down.
Originally from Colorado, Artus came to the PNW in 1998 and Carnation seven years later when she needed more room. A lifelong animal person growing up, Artus would bring home all the critters.
She told me, “I found a baby owl once in the woods and brought it home. Fish and Wildlife came and took it from me three days later, telling me it was illegal to have it. I rescued a pigeon from a mall parking lot, called my mom and told her it was a penguin. She laughed hysterically when I got home with the pigeon.”
Jamie, the pigeon, stayed for four years, significantly affecting her family. Her dad took a shower with him every morning, and her mother went on to raise all kinds of pigeons, showed them at 4H and won several blue ribbons.
The Artus matriarch and her love of animals clearly impacted Kathi. Seventeen years ago, someone brought two baby squirrels to her salon in Redmond when they couldn’t find a place for them, knowing how much she loved animals. Word spread over the years that she rehabbed baby squirrels.
So, when Kathi found herself with 54 squirrels four and a half years ago, she decided that if she did not get licensed, she would get in a lot of trouble, and the babies might be euthanized.
The process of getting licensed wasn’t easy. Artus had to find a vet willing to see her tiny clients when sick or injured, take tests, build enclosures and pass an inspection by the Washington Department of Fish &Wildlife (WDFW).*
One thousand training hours later, under a licensed rehab center, Footprints, named for her mother’s favorite poem, was opened. The facility takes in Eastern Gray squirrels, Douglas squirrels, Flying squirrels, Mountain beavers, chipmunks, ground squirrels, skunks, porcupines, Cottontails and marmots, as well as Deer mice and rats when she has the time.
This time of year, more time is something Artus could use. On an average day, her phone rings 70 to 90 times with people finding or asking questions about wildlife. She also has a job at her salon in Redmond, working full-time to provide for the animals.
Kathi’s day starts at 6 am and sometimes doesn’t end until the following morning. That time is spent feeding animals, making formula, doing dishes & laundry, chopping vegetables and making plates of food for everyone, not to mention going to the grocery store to buy MORE food.
One Footprints volunteer, Dee, found her when she brought in some baby possums after the mother was killed. Paws couldn’t help but gave her the center’s number, and Kathi got her in within a couple of hours. She says it impresses her how much Kathi knows and doesn’t turn people away when she can help. She also noted, “she has a crazy amount of patience for not only animals but our crazy bunch of volunteers.”
At the moment, Footprints has about twenty volunteers but could use fifty. Says Artus, “I need volunteers that can do evening shifts, from nine in the evening until about three in the morning. All other shifts are available starting at 6 am.” She is currently trying to build an outdoor building that can house baby squirrels, have a kitchen, and needs water and gas lines.
Says volunteer Dee, “Talking to Kathi is almost impossible. Purely because her phone goes off constantly, she answers all questions from people asking for help all over the country. Her knowledge of animal rehabilitation is incredible. She has a huge heart and does not stop working. Even when she’s assisting family and friends, she’s always available. There is not a harder working woman on the planet.”
Dee, a twice-weekly volunteer who helps run social media, clean, feed and transport the animals, marvels at Kathi’s organizational skills, saying she isn’t sure how she sleeps, works full-time and stays so loving and caring after the treatment of some of these animals.
Artus is so caring she recently spent $600 on a bowel hernia operation for a squirrel who was released and now runs free in the trees. It’s easy to see why Footprints had a 70% release rate on 1771 animals last year.
If you want to help Kathi and Footprints in their mission to provide the highest quality of compassionate care, treatment, rehabilitation and release of orphaned, abandoned or injured small mammals, there are several ways you can do it.
You can visit the website for information on how to contact Kathi to volunteer (you WANT to meet a baby opossum, trust me), donate money or set up an Amazon Smile account and support them at no extra cost when you shop. Footprints also have an Amazon Wishlist here. Footprints is a registered non-profit, so all contributions will be tax deductible.
Whatever you decide to do, be assured that it will be wisely used by the hardest working woman in the Snoqualmie Valley, Kathi Artus. Thank you for all you do for our local wildlife Footprints!
*Note: Footprints is not paid by the WDFW. Every two years the department has a grant they can apply for, but Footprints is eligible for very little money because they care for non-native species.