A Place to Heal: Inside the new PAWS Wildlife Center
Since its humble beginnings as a spay/neuter advocacy group in the 1970s, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) has grown to be a national leader in wildlife rehabilitation and conservation. In addition to their rehabilitation and conservation efforts, PAWS is a leader in companion animal adoption and sheltering, hands-on veterinary student education, and wildlife rehabilitation training.
For decades, the Lynnwood facility has been the base of operations and care for both companion animals and wildlife. But that’s changing in 2024 with the opening of a much-anticipated, state-of-the-art Wildlife Center in Snohomish. The dedicated hospital and rehabilitation center sits on 25 acres, secluded from urban life and street noise, surrounded by vegetation and forest, and large enough for future expansion.
In January, the CWM team had the immense privilege of touring the new Wildlife Center in its entirety. Once the doors open and patients arrive for care, public access will be limited to the main lobby, where livestream video monitors will offer a glimpse of rehabilitating wildlife without disturbing them.
“Our goal is to return animals to the wild with all their natural instincts intact, and that means restricting them from human exposure as much as possible,” said Andi Anderson, PAWS Director of Philanthropy & Events, at the start of the tour.
The buildings and auxiliary structures were designed specifically to meet the needs of sick and injured wildlife and the professionals dedicated to their care. Drawing on more than 30 years of learning on the go and making do with limited space, PAWS built facilities that will allow the veterinary, rehabilitation, and volunteer teams to work at their full potential and give these wild creatures the best rehabilitation possible.
The two main buildings are the Wildlife Center, with a public lobby and intake area, and the adjoining Care Unit.
Just off the lobby is PAWS’ first-ever wildlife waiting room (marked “Holding” in the floor plan above): A dark, quiet space for incoming patients to decompress after their stressful journey. Further into the facility are the intake exam room, treatment room, isolation room, intensive care unit, surgical room, diagnostic lab, clean core for cleaning and sterilizing supplies, and imaging room – with all the lighting, power, oxygen, and ventilation connections necessary for complex care and procedures.
The exam room at the new Wildlife Center, complete with centralized oxygen and anesthetic gas-scavenging systems.
Each room is large enough to accommodate a full care team for even the largest patients – like American black bears, which can grow up to 300 pounds. Larger rooms also allow for students to observe and practice procedures as part of their training.
Blue tape marks the footprint of the Lynnwood location surgery room within in the new surgery room, which is over double the size of the Lynnwood surgery.
On the other side of the main lobby, the prep kitchen features an industrial dishwasher and exhaust hood – plus enough counter space for volunteers to move around each other. The next room is dedicated to laundry. These human-dense areas are consolidated at the center of the facility, minimizing movement and noise on the extended grounds, where too much activity would be stressful to recovering patients.
Connected to the main building is the Care Unit. This treatment and rehabilitation space includes a songbird nursery, racoon nursery, dedicated oiled bird washroom, and aquatic facilities for patients like waterfowl, river otters and harbor seals. The aquatic care room includes a ramp leading into the water, for young animals still learning to swim.
The Intensive Care Unit at the PAWS Wildlife Center
Floor plan of the Care Unit attached to the main Wildlife Center
Spread across the wooded lot are custom-built recovery habitats designed for wildlife of all sizes.
Image courtesy of PAWS
The large carnivore recovery habitat enclosures provide a secure place to heal for large patients like black bears. Some of the indoor rooms are equipped with heated floor panels offering an external heat source, which is an essential comfort for orphaned animals separated from their mothers too soon. In the spacious outdoor portions of the habitat, climb-proof panels and two layers of fencing will keep patients safely inside and uninvited guests out.
The large carnivore recovery habitat is equipped with heated panels - outlined in the far corner of the room - offering the comfort of an external heat source for orphaned animals separated from the their mothers too soon.
The outdoor portion of the large carnivore habitat offers a secure space for enrichment and play. The outdoor habitat is divided into two pastures for different groups of bears.
The small and medium carnivore recovery habitat is similarly equipped, with heated floor panels, modular enclosures, and protected areas for outdoor enrichment. Patients in these enclosures will include bobcats, coyotes, and foxes.
The small and medium carnivore recovery habitat.
Just uphill from the carnivore habitats is the large raptor recovery habitat, affectionately nicknamed The Donut and the Timbits. The Donut portion makes a fully enclosed octagon, allowing large birds to practice continuous flight – an essential part of their rehabilitation that was not possible in the previous L-shaped facility. In the center of the octagon are the Timbits – a selection of modular habitats and care rooms that can be configured to accommodate multiple patients as needed.
The octagonal large raptor recovery habitat is designed for large birds like eagles and owls.
An internal recovery habitat for large raptors like bald eagles and great-horned owls.
All raptor recovery habitats – also called raptor mews – are constructed with precisely spaced vertical timber boards. This method of construction keeps birds contained without risking injury to their flight feathers, which can become snagged and damaged in conventional fencing. It also allows for continual natural light and fresh air. The boards in the small/medium raptor recovery habitat are spaced closer together than the large raptor enclosure.
The view from within the Donut: A complete, enclosed octagon that will allow large raptors to practice continuous flight.
On either side of the small/medium raptor mews are the small mammal recovery habitat and the raccoon habitat. Raccoons require extra security and care that warrant their own structures – fenced in silos with peaked roofs, plus a thick concrete base and dedicated drainage, following best practices for cleaning.
The raccoon recovery habitat is made up of silos - seen here partially constructed.
The third avian recovery habitat is dedicated to corvids, pigeons and songbirds.
This building includes a specialized room for woodpeckers, like our own Northern Flicker. Because woodpeckers’ feet grip tree bark instead of branches, these patients aren’t able to use conventional perches. Spending too much time on a flat surface damages their tail feathers, which hinders their flight in the wild.
The solution was developed right here at PAWS: Flat boards with shallow scores mimic tree bark, allowing the birds to grip and peck as they do in the wild. Sturdy wire mesh on the other side of the boards prevents patients from escaping, and the modular boards are easily replaced with just a couple screws. This method has been adopted by rehabilitation facilities across the globe.
The woodpecker room in the Corvid-Pigeon-Songbird recovery habitat.
The specialized paneling for woodpeckers, which mimics tree bark, was designed and developed here at PAWS.
“We weren’t looking for a view property when we chose this location,” Andi said, “but for a team that does such challenging work, giving them a space that is beautiful and healing for humans too is a wonderful bonus.”
The view from the small mammal enclosure overlooking the valley and to the Mt. Baker National Forest beyond.
To learn more about wildlife rehabilitation in the Pacific Northwest, visit the PAWS Wildlife Resource library. You can also contribute to our campaign in memory of Linda McCormack or contribute to the Wildlife Center by sponsoring a wild animal, donating greenery, or donating items on the Wildlife Wish List.
This temporary plaque graces a bench by the entrance of the PAWS Wildlife Center. Upon completion, a more permanent plaque will be installed for visitors to pause, reflect and enjoy the beautiful vista.
Since 2018, the CWM Team has been proud to partner with PAWS in memory of Linda McCormack - beloved friend, coworker, and animal lover - to sponsor a pet adoption suite in her name at the PAWS location in Lynnwood. To date, the CWM community has raised over $90,000, and we're on track to achieve our $100,000 goal this year!
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