A woman was driving behind a pickup truck the other day when she saw it suddenly swerve onto the shoulder, return to its lane, and keep going. Horrified, she realized the driver of the truck had just run over and instantly killed a mother duck -- right in front of her seven ducklings. She pulled over and scooped up the now-orphaned ducklings and put them in her car. After finding a small box to put them in, she took the babies home until she could bring them to us the next day.

What an example of two very different types of people: one who callously runs over an animal just because it’s there, and another who’s an angel to orphaned wildlife, who’s appalled (just as we are) by such a blatant disregard for animals.

Accidents are one thing, but his actions – swerving at just the right moment to kill a mother duck – is entirely another. It’s senseless and cruel. We are thankful that this woman, a kind member of the public, was at the right place at the right time.

The seven ducklings are currently in our care and will be released when they’re old enough to be on their own.

To those of you who also care about wildlife, we are grateful for you. Please find out how you can help us care for orphaned and injured wildlife by clicking here: http://southsoundcrittercare.com/how-you-can-help.html.

We also want to extend a big THANK YOU to West Sound Wildlife Center. We’ve been inundated with wildlife lately and these ducklings were among 14 animals we transferred to them last week, including a Bald Eagle. Thanks, guys!

Rainy weather brings some challenges for birds that fly at night. The pavement, often a dark color, is wet and in the moonlight it looks like water. These birds think they are landing on water and when they hit the payment, they take a big tumble.  Often, they are disoriented, scraped up, and need a little ‘R & R’ (i.e., rest and relaxation) to gather their strength again. Some species of birds have to put their wings into the water to take off again and so when they land on a road, they need to find water to take off again. Often, birds like loons, whose legs are placed far back on their bodies, simply cannot walk on land the distance it takes to get to water. That is where people can help. We call these cases “road strikes.”

So, when an American Coot got grounded on the tarmac at the airport, the question came up again. Coots are members of the rail family and are structurally a little like chickens. The family name is Gallinule which is the Latin name for chicken. These birds do not have to put their wings in the water but they have very unique feet and they run for an extended period on the top of the water with their wings beating hard to get up into the air. Their feet are delicate and can easily be damaged on rough concrete or other road surfaces. So, while they can take off without human assistance, they still take the physical hit and disorientation with the landing on the hard surface. Often, people see them and easily catch them just after a hit and bring them in to a wildlife care facility for assistance.

And so it was with this coot. Luckily, its feet were not physically injured, it had excellent blood values, and came in at a good weight for this species, was waterproof, and basically needed little help from us. We found a wetland near where it came down this week and returned it to a life in the wild. 

If you cannot already tell, being a good wildlife rehabilitation organization requires knowledge about the biology and habitat requirements, never mind knowing the local migration ‘in and out’ dates, to do professional quality work. South Sound Critter Care is lucky to have two staff members with college degrees having solid backgrounds in biology. Our college interns also bring biology skills every year to the center and for that we are grateful. We all care about animals, but it takes a lot of biological and veterinary knowledge to work with the animals successfully.

Jan White, DVM

In Edgewood, near a beautiful wooded area rich with Douglas fir trees, I recently released a female Douglas’ Squirrel. She’d been successfully rehabilitated by South Sound Critter Care after being hit by a car, and was now ready to go home.

She dashed out of the carrier to an old apple tree, where she rested for a few minutes near the top branches. Then, as fast as her little legs could take her, she ran to a Douglas fir just beyond the apple tree. She really seemed happy to be back in her neighborhood! Watch the video of her release, below.

You'll probably hear a Douglas' squirrel before you see it, as its high-pitched trills and chirps are unmistakable. This noisy squirrel is native to the West Coast, from California into British Columbia and parts of SE Alaska. It prefers old growth forests, relying on seeds from trees and bushes for the majority of its diet. This squirrel stores its seed caches under discarded cone scales on the forest floor. Many seeds are left uneaten or are dispersed throughout the territory, sprouting into new growth, an example of the incredible symbiotic relationship of life in the forest. 

In his memoir, The Mountains of California, John Muir wrote of the Douglas' squirrel "surpassing every other species in force of character, numbers, and extent of range, and in the amount of influence he brings to bear upon the health and distribution of the vast forests he inhabits."

Squirrels are rodents, related to beavers, porcupines, rats, and mice, to name a few. A group of squirrels is called a "scurry," but they are typically solitary unless raising their young. If you see multiple squirrels visiting your yard, this means resources are plentiful, including fresh water and food. John Muir would be proud.

SSCC Volunteer Shana Osmer

(Video of the Douglas' Squirrel release, below, is by Shana Osmer.)

Douglas Squirrel Release 2-25-16
Some time ago, we received a call from Ashley at the Auburn Pep Boys to let us know that an owl was caught on razor wire (that was also wrapped with barbed wire), next to their shop. Dozens of crows had been attacking it all day, but the owl put up a good fight, even throwing one of the crows to the ground. Colleen, one of our volunteers, called the shop but didn’t receive a call back. After discussing it with Dr. White, who was concerned that the owl might not make it through the night because of the low temperatures, Colleen went home, got her husband, son, a box, and ladders, and together they went to find the bird, which turned out to be a Barred Owl.

It was dark and cold when they arrived at Pep Boys at 8 pm. Josh, a Pep Boys employee, said the owl was no longer on the wire but very likely in the blackberry bushes behind the fence. Colleen’s husband made his way through the underbrush and stickers and gathered the owl, which was very docile, and at 8:30 Colleen called Dr. White, happy to say the rescue was successful.

The injured owl lived through the night in an incubator at SSCC, but radiographs the next day showed the owl’s right wing was too badly broken to fix. Sadly, it had to be euthanized. Everyone, from Colleen and her guys to Dr. White, interns, and staff, put in a great effort to save this owl. Sometimes we just don’t know if an injured animal or bird can be saved, but we do what we can to give it its best chance.

We’re so grateful to volunteers like Colleen who go the extra mile (sometimes literally) to help animals in need. 

At South Sound Critter Care, we couldn’t do what we do for wildlife without the hard work and commitment of our volunteers. SSCC’s Board of Directors held our annual appreciation event to honor them on Sunday at the Cherokee Bay Clubhouse in Maple Valley. It was a fun time of great food, story-swapping, and well-deserved recognition.

While the event was going on, we were all able to enjoy a slideshow of animals cared for by SSCC volunteers and staff during 2015. The slideshow, played on a continuous loop, was created by SSCC volunteer Curt Pliler. 

Here are just a few highlights from the event.


Rachael Mlakar started off the afternoon for us by reading a very touching poem she wrote about SSCC.


Board members Richard Cassell and Estrada Colon had a great time handing out certificates and personally thanking our volunteers, who were then able to take a gift card of their choosing.


It was also our pleasure at this time to brag about Kellian Baker, Yun Byeon, David Duke, and Colleen Mayer for having the most volunteer hours.

Fancy, SSCC’s educational crow, was also in attendance and seemed to enjoy the attention. Here she is with her handler, Dana McDonald.


Dr. Jan White, DMV and president of the SSCC board, gave our first-ever keynote address, discussing how far SSCC has come, challenges we’re currently facing, and big, exciting dreams for South Sound Critter Care’s future.

Would you like to be a part of the fun next year? Talk to us today about becoming a volunteer at South Sound Critter Care!

She was a young Northern Flicker, just a fledgling. (A fledgling is a baby bird that has recently left the nest.) Because she was so young and alone, we decided to pair her with another we’d received at about the same time. They roomed together and for a while acted like brother and sister, but the male began pecking at her and two days later she was covered in scratches from his bullying. We separated them and continued to hand feed each of them.

As you likely know, a wound that is healing eventually begins to itch. It’s the same for animals and birds, and the young female flicker began to scratch at her wounds as they healed. We gave her pain medications and anti-itching to control the itching, but she continued to scratch. This created a new wound and we were beginning to lose hope that she could be stopped from doing herself in as she had broken key feathers before she arrived and that made it easy to break more, especially the new ones trying to regrow.

But Kellian, one of our 2015 college interns, had no plans to give up on her. In order to keep a careful eye on her, she took the bird home each night and brought her back to the center each morning. This was necessary as the stress from the scratching and the healing-related itching, combined with being around other birds she didn’t know and still reeling from being picked on, had made her one anxious young bird. 

Missing her feathers, the flicker earned the nickname “Butterball” in honor of the Butterball turkeys she now looked like. That resemblance, thankfully, would be short-lived.

Kelli took care of the flicker, feeding her by hand and protecting her from hurting herself more, all the while making sure she remained wild and not habituated.  (To be habituated means to be too trusting of humans, which is often to the animal’s detriment). Her commitment to the bird paid off, and the flicker who still had a ways to go before she’d be fully able to function in the wild, was put in a larger cage to stretch her wings and grow in the rest of her adult feathers.

Soon she was moved to the aviary outside where she could enjoy having flight time and improve her endurance. These birds make a living flying from tree-to-tree killing insects. She improved and became releasable. Considerable effort was made to carefully return her to the best area close to where she was originally picked up by the public. 

“Butterball’s” time with us has not prevented her from finding a home of her own or a possible mate. Kellian said that caring for the flicker was her “first real taste of the real reason people do wildlife rehabilitation.” This practice combines the best of humane animal care, veterinary medicine, and conservation biology. Successful releases depend on all three of these best practices coming together and working for the benefit of the animal(s). And that is our job here at South Sound Critter Care.  


Life isn’t always just a bowl of cherries…sometimes it can be tragic. Our ER room is full of life and death but sometimes there are other new lives at stake as well. We have to choose who can live. In this case, it was a mama opossum that presented as basically brain dead but had a pouch full of babies. She was young and we were sad. We realized at intake that we could not save her, but discovered that her babies weighed over two ounces. This meant we could raise them and that is what our volunteers, interns, and staff did. Where were her babies? In her pouch! Yes, we really do have a pouched mammal in America.

What you may not know about our only North American marsupial (think kangaroo here) is that these unique animals, like their cousins in Australia, give birth to embryos, not neonates (full-term babies), at 11-13 days. After they’re born, the embryos attach to one of 13 nipples that dispense milk minute by minute. They never suckle (nurse) or take milk on their own. Instead, they swallow a teat and milk comes to them. Their mouth has only a tiny hole in it to take the teat. If it is too small (at a body weight of a little under two ounces) they cannot be successfully tube fed because we don’t have a tube that narrow. To give you a frame of reference, the embryos are about the size of a dime when born. Being older and bigger, these guys were successfully reared and were just four of 74 embryonic or neonatal first year opossums that were successfully released this year.

This is an Eastern Cottontail that was hit by a car and had a bad wound on his rear leg. With our veterinary and rehabilitative assistance, he not only survived but regained full use of the leg. 

He was released in August near the area where he was found. The interns at the center nick-named him “the boxer bunny” because he was not having interactions with humans willingly. He would strike out at us to keep us at bay. We were all glad to get him home again. 

Aurora, Wildlife Intern

You’ve probably seen raccoons dunk their food in water and then roll it between their hands. Despite how it looks, they’re not washing it. In the wild, raccoons will forage in nooks and crannies of streams and rivers for aquatic prey like fish and crawfish. 

When in captivity, or even when stealing your dog’s food in your backyard, they follow the same pattern. Their hands contain many touch receptors that help them to “see” their food underwater, and by rolling the food between their hands, they’re actually gathering information about it. 

Besides their food, raccoons also use their hands (the palms of which are hairless) to investigate many other things in their world. Aren’t they amazing?

We took in animal #2,500 for 2015 earlier this week. This Western Grebe is what’s considered a “road strike” case. At night, these birds fly from place to place and when they see asphalt lit up (by street lights or even headlights), it looks like water to them. They attempt to land on it but find, to their horror, that it’s not a lake. The problem with grebes landing on roadways has to do with their anatomy: Because they are aquatic birds, their legs are too far back on their bodies to allow them to adequately walk on land. If they cannot stumble their way to a body of water during the night, death becomes a real possibility. Coyotes will eat them, cars will hit them, or starvation will occur if they can’t find live fish. It is a chaotic experience.

This one got lucky. A caring woman picked it up and brought it to us from Lakewood in afternoon traffic. NaTasha, our wildlife manager, was able to release the bird into a lake the next day. We love happy endings, don’t you?