Wildlife Oil Spill Rescue: See Inside The Battle To Save Animals

The brown pelican was the first victim in Oil leakWildlife officials said. The bird was euthanized Sunday after it was injured in the spill off the coast of Orange County, Michael Zicardi, director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), said at a press conference Monday morning.

Zicardi said officials had captured four live birds as of noon on Monday. A flying bird, a red duck and a swan were captured on Sunday and entered Sunderling on Monday. He said other oily birds were spotted in flight, but that they were difficult to catch.

“When we heard about the large spot size with the reported size, we had serious concerns about this effect,” Zicardi said. “In our initial assessment of the area, it appears that the number of birds in the general area is lower than we feared.”

With about 126,000 gallons of oil spilling about 5 miles off Huntington Beach in California, experts from wildlife organizations are concerned about the animals.

The death toll is unknown. Wildlife experts collect the animals as soon as they reach the beach.

“At this point, we are cautiously optimistic about the number of animals that may be affected at this point,” Zicardi said, adding that it was too early to know the impact on wildlife.

The birds come first to help, then the marine life

Oil spill contaminated sandings are inspected and inspected by the California Department Fish &  Wildlife staff.

Birds are the priority, Zicardi said, as they are more likely to come ashore after an oil spill.

“Birds have such a high body temperature, they use their feathers as an almost dry suit to warm themselves in the marine environment,” Zicardi said. “If they get polluted, their first response is to get warm as quickly as possible. That’s why they usually come ashore quickly, so they can try to stay warm.”

He said organizations rely on offshore cleaning operators who may spot dolphins or other marine creatures in distress.

10 years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the study found oil contamination in thousands of fish

The good news for dolphins, Zicardi said, is that these mammals are “much less susceptible to the effects of oil than birds are.”

Zicardi said there isn’t enough information to talk about the long-term effects of the oil spill on marine mammals. It depends on how much oil the marine life ingests or inhales, he said.

“It’s only now that we’re starting to learn some of those long-term effects from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill over 10 years ago,” Zicardi said.

Oil pollution found in thousands of fish after 10 years The disaster, according to a study published in 2020. Millions of gallons of oil spilled into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days in that spill.

Leave the care of oily animals to the experts

OWCN is based at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). Zicardi said his job is to respond to oil spills that affect or could threaten wildlife anywhere in the state.

The organization has more than 1,600 responders who have been trained to go to an oil slick. Since 1994, OWCN has responded to more than 75 oil spills and cared for 10,000 animals.

Zicardi said the animals collected from the oil waves have a chance to recover and return to the wild.

“Oiling is a painful experience for these animals, but in our experience, for large-scale spills that we have responded to, we have a more than 50% to 75% success rate of returning the animals to a clean environment,” he said.

How do they clean and care for animals?

Ziccardi said field teams are on site to collect the animals and bring them to a “field stabilization site” so they can give them basic first aid.

“We give them warmth, we give them fluids, we give them some time away from the stress of picking them up here. Then from this location we have an organized transportation that goes to the Oil Bird Care Center at the Los Angeles Education Center.”

When the animals are in the center, workers photograph each animal and document as much as possible. The animals then rest for 24 to 48 hours, he said.

They clean off the oil before their human assistants give them “time, good nutrition, and careful monitoring,” Zicardi said. He added that for birds, this process takes an average of 10 to 14 days.

If you see animals contaminated with oil, do not pick them up. Zicardi said it’s not safe for humans or animals.

He encourages people to call the 877-UCD-OWCN hotline to report animals contaminated with the oil. He added that the organization does not take in volunteers, but instead relies on 1,600 trained responders.