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A day with Dave Pauli, an HSUS wildlife expert and field responder

All Animals magazine, March/April 2017

by Jennifer Skiff

As a 27-year veteran of The HSUS, Dave Pauli is a legend among animal advocates for his no-nonsense approach to all things wild. As part of his job as senior advisor for wildlife response and policy, he provides training on wildlife capture, relocates prairie dogs and much more. I serve on the HSUS state council in Maine and joined Dave at his home base in Montana to experience a day in the life of a much-loved hero.

  • Jennifer Skiff reassures a mother dog that her puppies are safe. Photo by Jon Sainken/For The HSUS.

We met in Billings before dawn and traveled to Crow Nation Indian reservation in Wyola, 95 miles southeast, to trap and rescue feral dogs. We met HSUS Montana state director Wendy Hergenraeder onsite and went to work. Dave moved swiftly, placing traps strategically around the property. Within minutes, a door crashed, signaling a catch, and then another and another. The third dog screeched when she realized she was confined.

“She’s got pups out there,” Dave said, nodding toward a nearby thicket. “Let’s go find them.” I grabbed a plastic crate, lined it with a clean sheet and set off after Dave. Together we dropped to the ground and slithered along a dirt path until he stopped. “She’s a good mama. There are two beautifully dug bank dens in here.” He reached into one of the holes and pulled out a cream-colored puppy, then went back in until there were four girls and four boys nestled in the crate. I hurried them to their crying mother. She peered into the crate and calmed. Perhaps she knew her hard life was over.

At noon we waved goodbye to Wendy, who was on her way to the Lewis & Clark Humane Society, where the 15 dogs would be vaccinated, sterilized and adopted.

Dave Pauli cared for these ducks after they were found orphaned. Now that they're old enough, he returns them to the wild. Photo by Jennifer Skiff/The HSUS.

Back in Billings, Dave introduced me to 24 red-eared slider turtles, former pets who are learning to fend for themselves before being released into sanctuary ponds. Then we set free four mallard ducks who Dave had taken in as orphans. From there, I was heading to Yellowstone and Dave was having lunch with two houseguests: Wanda the coyote and Larry the weasel, both recovering from injuries. I didn’t bother to ask what he planned to do with the rest of the afternoon. It was obvious his day was just getting started.

Jennifer Skiff is the HSUS Maine state council chair and the author of The Divinity of Dogs.

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