PAWS volunteers play important role during pandemic

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — The PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynwood is relying on a limited number of skilled volunteers to provide help during the pandemic. One of those volunteers is JoAnn Syron. She has been with the Baby Bird Nursery for 17 years.

Since the number of volunteers has been reduced to comply with COVID-19 safety measures, PAWS has also limited its intake of wild animals. Having Syron available to help during this critical time is essential to PAWS' mission, especially during the busy baby season, which typically starts in the spring and summer months.

“We are the eyes and ears of the PAWS rehabilitators when we are down in the Baby Bird Nursery because they have so much going on,” said Syron.

Orphaned baby birds are vulnerable to prey and cannot survive on their own. PAWS is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator that provides care for wild animals in need, so the animals can ultimately be returned to their natural habitats. The goal is to care for the baby birds until they are ready to be released.

“The baby birds are so sweet. You just smile. You open up the cage, and they open their little beaks and flap their little wings, and it just makes you happy,” said Syron. “It feels good knowing that you helped them return to the wild. You’ve made a difference in the life of the birds. They would have been dead. They all would have been dead without us.”

Syron has logged more than 18,000 hours caring for the baby birds and has extensive knowledge about their needs. This includes feeding baby birds every 30 minutes for three hours, monitoring their health and cleaning their enclosures.

“She’s very adept at it now because she has done it for so many years, so it’s like having a staff member,” said Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager Emily Meredith. “They are the ones that help us to complete our goal of helping wildlife, and they help from the beginning to the end. And if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do this work.”

Meredith appreciates Syron’s dedication, as PAWS is not able to train new volunteers during the pandemic. Syron’s experience as a longtime volunteer is invaluable.

“Now I can just look at a baby bird and know if it needs help, if it is in distress. It’s very valuable for PAWS to have people come and return every year because it takes the burden off the staff there. They trust you that you are down there and know what you are doing,” said Syron.

Syron’s compassionate work has given hundreds of birds a second chance at life.

“I get a lot more out of it than I give because it makes me feel good about myself, makes me feel like I am doing something that actually means something for the community and wildlife around us,” said Syron.

For more information about PAWS Wildlife Center, you can visit its website: https://www.paws.org/wildlife/.