Information on panelists, paper submissions and more will be found in the coming weeks at eowconference.org.
Oil Spill Response
International Bird Rescue has sent a four-person team to assist in collection and rehabilitation efforts for wildlife affected by the bitumen release at the Canadian Natural Resources Limited Primrose Project in northeastern Alberta (read this report in the Edmonton Journal for more information on animal care efforts).
We are proud to be working alongside The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton and the Oiled Wildlife Society of British Columbia. Coleen Doucette, Vice President for the Oiled Wildlife Society of British Columbia, is managing the animal care program.
Currently in care are two American Beavers, two Muskrats, a Mallard Duckling and an American Coot. The two American Beavers in care are juveniles and have undergone cleaning, while one Adult muskrat was also cleaned, and all are in good physical condition.
We will keep you updated on the response effort via this blog.
Founded in 1971, International Bird Rescue has extensive experience in oiled wildlife events around the world. During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we co-managed oiled bird rehabilitation centers in four states as part of a large-scale response to the incident that involved federal and state agencies, industry and non-governmental organizations.
Map of International Bird Rescue historic response efforts:
This week, we’re truly putting our “Every Bird Matters” tagline into practice by responding to an oil contamination event that has affected animals on Alaska’s remote St. Lawrence Island.
Along with local villagers, federal and state officials have found a total of seven oiled seabirds and seals on the island, located in the Bering Sea (for more information, read this article in Wednesday’s Anchorage Daily News). Both the origin and type of oil is unknown and currently under investigation.
So far, one live oiled bird has been recovered: a juvenile Thick-billed Murre, which is currently being treated at our Alaska Wildlife Response Center (AWRC) in Anchorage. The AWRC was created in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and remains a vital resource for oiled bird rehabilitation in Alaska.
Thick-billed Murres are fascinating seabirds, nesting on rocky cliff faces and producing eggs that are pointed at one end to help prevent them from rolling off the ledges. Just three weeks after hatching, flightless chicks dive into the icy waters below and begin to swim for hundreds of miles. (Read more about this species here via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Alaska Region.)
This murre came to our center on November 10, and was stabilized and fed for a few days by IBR rehabilitator Julie Skoglund. It was washed on Tuesday, and is currently being waterproofed and living in one of our small rehab pools. We will return this bird back into the wild as soon as it meets its criteria for release, hopefully within a few days.
Though this mystery spill has produced only one live oiled bird thus far, we are prepared and equipped to handle more should they be found. Our job is to care for all birds harmed by human interaction. So, here we are in Alaska, helping a bird that otherwise may not have survived.
Meanwhile, in California, International Bird Rescue is currently caring for birds affected by natural oil seepage on the Pacific coast. Oiled birds include this large, male Western Grebe recently washed at our Los Angeles regional rehabilitation facility.
Update: This bird has been successfully rehabilitated and release. Click here for release photos.
Murre photos/video by Julie Skoglund.
A team of six oiled wildlife response experts from International Bird Rescue has been deployed to Montana following the Yellowstone River Pipeline Spill. The response team, headed up by Director Emeritus, Jay Holcomb, began arriving in Billings, Montana, on July 3 and will be working with state and federal wildlife agencies to help coordinate the rescue and rehabilitation of any impacted wildlife.
International Bird Rescue’s team has responded to over 200 oil spills in more than a dozen countries around the world.
To report oiled wildlife in Montana, please call 1 (888) 382-0043.
For further information on the response go to www.exxonmobilpipeline.com.
We are almost into July and have just taken in our 600th bird here in Louisiana at the Fort Jackson Bird Rehabilitation Center. The majority of those birds have come into the center in the last 2 weeks when a section of oil was carried to shore near Grand Isle, LA and impacted many brown pelicans and other smaller bird species. We currently have about 300 clean and beautiful brown pelicans outside in large cages getting ready for release. They are starting to be released today in groups and we will continue to release them twice a week until they are all gone. There are currently about 100 oiled pelicans in the building waiting to be washed and some smaller species of birds such as gulls and herons.
The heat here is very difficult to work in but everyone is doing well and moving the birds through the rehabilitation process. We have set up specific times for the media to come and film the birds and the work so that it limits the stress on people and animals. The media has been very cooperative with us.
I play a few roles here in Ft. Jackson and one is the External Affairs role that puts me in touch with the media and the world at large so I thought I would take this opportunity to answer some of the main questions that I am being asked daily.
Question: Where the pelicans are going to be released?
Answer: The pelicans are being flown to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Will they come back to Louisiana? There is that possibility but the US Fish & Wildlife Service has determined that this is the best place to release them at this time. It is a long way from the spill so we are hoping that they stay in the area, at least for a while. The smaller inland birds are being released in the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area just north of Lafayette as they become ready.
Q: How long is IBRRC and Tri-State Bird Rescue going to be in the Gulf of Mexico helping care for the birds?
A: Well, as long as the oil is gushing from the earth and birds are at risk of getting oiled then we will be here.
Q: Is BP supporting your efforts to care for the oiled birds?
A: Yes, BP is the responsible party and is paying for all the costs associated with the care and rehabilitation of oiled birds. IBRRC and Tri-State Bird Rescue are hired to manage the rehabilitation program for the oiled birds from this spill so in actuality we are contractors for BP.
Q: What will the success rate be for oiled brown pelicans?
A: It’s impossible to predict the future but these are very healthy and strong birds and have a good chance at surviving the rehabilitation process. The majority of these birds are handling the stress of oiling, washing and rehabilitation extremely well, as expected. Over 300 of them have been cleaned and are in outside aviaries at this time getting ready for release. Brown pelicans typically have a high survival rate in oil spills when they are captured early on and given the appropriate care, as has happened here to date. I expect the majority of them to make it but time will tell and we will report on these birds as we move through the spill.
Q: How can people help or donate?
A: Well, as I have said before, we currently have plenty of help and are not in need of volunteers. As well as the Tri-State and IBRRC response teams, wildlife paraprofessionals from the Gulf Coast States are supplementing our workforce. In Louisiana, this is being coordinated by LSART (Louisiana State Animal Response Team).
Regarding donating to the cause, there are pelicans and thousands of other wild animals all over the country that need help and are cared for by wildlife rehabilitators. I urge everyone to locate their local wildlife rehabilitation organization and support them and their great work in helping our precious wildlife get a second chance at life. Check with your state department of Fish and Game and they can help you locate a worthy wildlife rehabilitation organization.
Beware of the NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) that claim they are raising money to help either restore the gulf or set up mass volunteer networks for spill response. Everyone wants a piece of this pie and a number of these groups who have never done much about oil spill response in the past are now asking for money, holding fundraising events, telethons etc. and using many tactics including celebrity endorsement and the media. They are opportunistic and take advantage of every oil spill or big disaster and I strongly urge you just to be cautious. Before you donate ask how and where your money will be spent before you give.
Again, the real unsung and under-funded heroes who help wildlife around this country are the wildlife rehabilitation organizations who work 24/7 to care for our precious wildlife. They are hands on, on the front lines and the results of their efforts can be witnessed every time they release a rehabilitated animal back into the wild. My strong suggestion is that you support these organizations if you really want to help wildlife!
Thanks for visiting our blog. I will be in touch soon with more news and to answer more questions and share more pictures.
– Jay Holcomb, Executive Director, IBRRC
International Bird Rescue Response Teams starting working in Gulf Coast within days of the Deepwater Horizon well blow out on April 20, 2010. With nearly 40 years of experience on more than 200 spills, IBRRC brings a wide variety of skills working with oiled wildlife.
The birds included five American Coots, two Western/Clark’s Grebes, a Eared Grebe, a Horned Grebe and a Greater Scaup). The healthy birds were set free in Berkeley.
A total of 49 live oiled birds have been captured following the tanker spill on October 30, 2009 about 2 1/2 miles south of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. At least 20 birds have been found dead after spill that leaked up to 800 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay.
The birds are being treated in Fairfield at the San Francisco Oiled Wildlife Care & Education Center (SFBOCEC) that is co-managed by the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC).
You can see more updates on the OWCN Blog
Photo courtsey: OWCN
DARK DAYS ON SAN FRANCISCO BAY
More than a 1,000 oiled birds were treated at IBRRC’s Cordelia center after the deadly Cosco Busan oil spill. A container ship’s collision with the San Francisco Bay Bridge on November 7, 2007 caused a large spill of 54,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil that coated birds and other wildlife.
By January 2008, 1,084 oiled birds arrived at the bird center in Cordelia. At least 424 cleaned birds have been released back in the wild. Birds are being set free at Heart’s Desire Beach in Tomales Bay. This at the Point Reyes National Seashore area about 40 miles north of San Francisco and at Pilar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, 25 miles south of San Francisco. Some birds are being released at Crissy Field near the Golden Gate Bridge. Read: San Francisco Chronicle story
More than 2,500 birds died in the spill. Wildlife biologists fear that more than 20,000 birds may ultimately perish from the disaster. They believe thousands of birds landed in the oily bay and then left the area to die elsewhere. Some also may have been eaten by predators.
- Birds arrived: 1,084
- Found dead in the field: 1,858
- Died/Euthanized: 653
- Released: 421
- FDIF birds: 939 visibly oiled, 854 un-oiled and 25 unassessed. (As of 1/15/08)
Download the Bird Injury Factcheet (360 KB)
Following the spill many oiled birds were collected on the bay and on beaches stretching north up to Marin County and south along Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Surf Scoters, Scaups and Grebes seem to be the most affected by this spill. Also, two raccoons were found dead.
During the spill, the Coast Guard closed 30 beaches: Ocean Beach, Angel Island, Crissy Field, Kirby Cove, Black Sand Beach, Rodeo Beach, Fort Point, Muir Beach, Fort Baker and China Beach, Tennessee Valley, Keller Beach, Point Isabel, Ferry Point, Cesar Chavez Beach, Middle Harbor and Shimada Park. Some beaches may have been reopened. SF Chronicle spill coverage
Bunker fuel spills are extremely toxic to marine life, especially birds that float and feed through a spill. The oil inhibits the birds ability to thermo regulate and they become cold as their natural insulation in their feathers break down. The birds spend most of their time trying to preen the oil out of feathers and thus ingesting the oil. Weakened, they will often beach themselves and fall prey to predators or die from the toxic effects of oil.
IBRRC was activated immediately to search and rescue birds affected by the spill. The Bay Area based non-profit has a long history of helping oiled wildlife. The organization began in 1971 when two tankers collided in SF Bay spilling 900,000 gallons of oil. Since then the organization has become an expert in the field of wildlife search and collection, stabilization and the washing of oil from affected animals. IBRRC has worked on 150+ spills worldwide partnering with other groups to to train responders in Africa, Europe, Asia and South America.
Locally IBRRC is part of California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network. Any oiled animals will be brought to the OWCN’s San Francisco Bay Area wildlife center for treatment. The center is managed in partnership with IBRRC. It’s located near the junction of highways 80 and 680 in the Cordelia/Fairfield area.
IBRRC & San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center
4369 Cordelia Road
Fairfield, CA 94534
On Wednesday November 7, 2007 the Cosco Busan container ship side swiped one of the western anchorages of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The ship leaked bunker fuel oil after a gash was discovered in its port side. The 810-foot vessel was headed out of Oakland and bound for South Korea when it hit the bridge in heavy fog around 8:30 AM. The bridge did not suffer significant damage and traffic continued to flow on the span.
This is this worst spill in the area since 1996 when the Cape Mohican spilled 40,000 gallons of fuel oil into San Francisco Bay near Pier 70. The most severe spill inside the San Francisco Bay occurred in 1971 when 900,000 gallons of oil spilled after two oil tankers collided in the fog near the Golden Gate Bridge. See: IBRRC history
The largest spill in area waters happened in 1984 when the Puerto Rican, spilled 1.5 million gallons of oil in the open ocean off the Golden Gate in 1984. In contrast the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska spilled 11 million gallons of oil. Some members of the IBRRC response team spent six months helping save wildlife in that spill.
Please remember: Do not attempt to wash, feed or house oiled birds and other animals! Spilled oil is extremely toxic. The use of proper gloves and protocols must be followed to insure the safety of the public AND the animals.
IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS
Report oiled wildlife: (415) 701-2311 or (707) 207-0380 ext 110
Report oil sightings: 985-781-0804
To submit a claim for oiled property: 888-850-8486
Kyle Orr, Department of Fish and Game (916) 825-7120
Sylvia Wright, UC Davis and OWCN PIO (530) 752-7704
IBRRC is a proud member of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) a legislatively mandated program within The California Fish and Game, Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) which strives to ensure that wildlife exposed to petroleum products in the environment receive the best achievable treatment by providing access to permanent wildlife rehabilitation facilities and trained personnel for oil spill response within California.
Map (above) from California’s Fish & Game,
Office of Spill Response:
Report of Cosco Busan Oil Spill
Oil spill and icy weather in Gulf of Finland impacts thousands of rare Mute Swans and ducks
International Bird Rescue (IBR) started off its 35 year anniversary by responding to an oil spill in Estonia which oiled hundreds, possibly thousands, of seabirds and swans. As co-managers of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Emergency Relief Team (IFAW) IBR provides substantial expertise for the international team.
On January 28, an oil slick was discovered on the northeast coast of Estonia and on islands in the Gulf of Finland. Estimated at 20 tons, the oil from a yet to be determined source killed thousands of birds who winter there, and left many survivors in need of rescue. When the size and impact of the spill became apparent, the Ministry of the Environment and the Estonian Fund for Nature requested help. A week after the spill, the IFAW ER Team was mobilized and on the way to Tallinn, Estonia. Project Blue Seas from Germany and RSPCA, England are also on-site and have been incorporated into the overall response team.
Hitting the ground running, the Team evaluated what had already been done and determined the course of action necessary to coordinate the efforts of local organizations and volunteers to set up one centralized center. This would put all rescued birds in one place where the ER Team could give them the best care possible, greatly increasing their chance to survive the life-threatening ordeal.
Within 48 hours of arrival, a building in Keila, 30 minutes from Tallinn, had been set up and the first birds started arriving from several temporary centers, including the Tallinn Zoo. A modern building, loaned by the Estonian Ministry of the Environment, was quickly converted into rehabilitation rooms for the oiled birds, a wash room and a food preparation kitchen. Pools were erected and enclosed in a large tent for reconditioning the birds after cleaning. Storage tanks for oiled waste water were put on the site and a comprehensive site safety plan was developed. The Team was able to accomplish this with considerable help from the Estonian Fund for Nature and the Estonian authorities. A dozen plumbers, electricians and carpenters worked in sub-zero temperatures to get the center up and running in record time. For oiled birds, there is a very small window of time in which they can be saved.
On February 10, the center had 103 birds in care, including 22 mute swans, a species that is has “threatened status” in this part of the world. As with most oil spills in winter, rescue teams face dangerous challenges due to ice that freezes and thaws and hard to reach areas with snow over ice. Many birds, too weak to move, were freezing into ice while still alive. Amazingly, swans that had to be carefully chipped from the ice are surviving and recovering well.
The spill has covered a relatively small distance of coastline of about 18 km long, including the nearby islands, but the area is heavily utilized as a foraging area for seabirds this time of year. Rescue teams combing beaches saw approximately 50 swans that are oiled and in need of rescue. However, if oiled birds are able to fly, capture can be difficult. A boat was made available to the rescue team, but it is extremely difficult to get to the oiled birds in the icy conditions. On several occasions a team member has had to wade into freezing water waist deep to rescue to a bird.
Six days after arrival, the Team has birds stable enough to be washed. Many are very heavily oiled but they will come clean when the experts begin washing them. Swans that look black will again be snow white. After washing the birds go under dryers which dry their wet feathers while the birds preen them back into place. At this point many birds will feel quite good and will be able to feed themselves. When deemed ready, the birds will go into the outside recovery pools, where they will continue to preen and regain their waterproofing. In a week (February 17) some may even be ready for release. However, there is a serious concern that oil trapped in the ice will become a hazard to seabirds again when it begins to melt in the spring. Local volunteers are receiving training at the center to be able to help this second phase of oiled birds who will need rescue and rehabilitation.
A serious concern is that oil trapped in the ice will become a hazard to seabirds again when it begins to melt in the spring. Local volunteers are receiving training at the center to be able to help this second phase of oiled birds in need of care.
Bird affected by the spill include: Long-tailed Ducks, Mute Swans, Golden-eyes and Smews (Eurasian diving ducks).
IFAW’s Emergency Relief team includes veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators from International Bird Rescue Research Center (US) and others from around the world, including Brazil (IFAW Penguin Network and CRAM), IFAW Russia and IFAW Germany. The team is working with the Estonian Fund for Nature the Ministry of the Environment, Project Blue Seas (Germany), SEA ALARM (Netherlands and Belgium) and the RSPCA (UK), as well as local volunteers.
IFAW’s Emergency Relief (ER) Team is managed cooperatively by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) which brings over 30 years of experience responding to oiled wildlife. The team is comprised of leaders in the field of wildlife rehabilitation, biology, veterinary medicine and management who are professionals from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, South Africa, UK and USA.
Learning from Alaska
Severe weather, remote location hamper work in worst spill since Exxon Valdez
The search for oiled animals was called off in early January 2005 after most of 470,000 gallons of oil leaked from a grounded freighter into the waters off Unalaska Island. Members of the IBRRC response team were able to collect 29 birds – even though severe winter weather and the remote location hampered the search and collection of oiled animals. A stranded Malaysian cargo ship that lost power on December 8, 2004, still sits in shallow water in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. The vessel has been there since it lost power and broke in half on its way to China from Tacoma, Washington with a cargo of 60,000 tons of soybeans. Oil not the only mess left by freighter According to Incident Command reports, more than 1,500 birds and five otters have found dead. Several hundred more live oiled birds were spotted, but proved to unreachable because of the remote Bering Sea location.
Totals as of Feb 2, 2005
- Captured – 29
- Cleaned and Released – 10
- Died – 19 Birds, 6 Mammals
- Carcasses – 1,503 Birds, 6 Mammals
Various experts have called the spill the worst since the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez spill that dumped 11 million gallons into the Prince William Sound. The ship ran aground near Valdez on Bligh Reef at 12:04 am March 24, 1989. More info on the Valdez spill
In an attempt to prevent similar accidents in the future, a new coalition of business and conservation interests announced the formation of a Shipping Safety Partnership (SSP). The oiled birds collected, included Common Murres, Crested Auklets, Horned-grebes, Pelagic Cormorants and a Long-tailed Duck. Some members of IBRRC’s oil spill reponse team left Alaska and traveled directly to a broken pipeline oil spill near Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico.
To study the impact of the spill on shorebirds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released 162 bird size blocks of wood from the grounding site the second week in January 2005. The blocks will help determine where dead birds might have drifted, said Catherine Berg, an oil spill response coordinator with the USFWS. The agency is asking that people report any ocean sightings and return any blocks found on shore.
“We’re trying to get a feel for what we may have missed,” Berg said. “It’s just not possible to search every beach where carcasses come ashore and even if could, we’d still be competing with animals that prey on oiled birds, like foxes, eagles, gulls and rats.”
At the mercy of the weather
For three weeks the weather proved to be a frustrating waiting game for IBBRC and others on scene. The cleanup and search for oiled animals was stalled by strong winds, rough seas and the remoteness of the spill. Adding to concerns: Only five hours of daylight in this area of Alaska in winter.
“We are at the mercy of the weather,” said Jay Holcomb, Executive Director of the California-based IBRRC. “As soon as there’s an opening in the storms we’ll assist wildlife officials in assessing and capturing any oiled wildlife we can find.” Holcomb said. “But it has to be safe enough for our team members to access the impacted areas.” When live birds were rescued, they were stabilized for a day or two in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Then the oiled birds were flown to Anchorage for treatment at IBRRC-managed Alaska Wildlife Response Center (AWRC). The AWRC is an adapted warehouse that was developed after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. It is funded by the petroleum industry. Federal law requires that any oil spill response team include wildlife handlers. In past spills, animals have been hazed to keep them out of oil and IBRRC has captured and removed healthy animals to keep them clean.
Tar balls from the spill were reported on shore as far north as Makushin Bay, about 10 miles from the spill site. Oil was also spotted in Skan Bay, drifting north from the wreckage.
According to a federal hazardous materials fact sheet, the type of bunker oil on the ship is “a dense, viscous oil … (that) usually spreads into thick, dark colored slicks” when it is spilled on water.
Biologists are worried that the spill from the vessel could threaten Steller sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals and seabirds foraging in bays along the island’s west coast. This spill was not only a tragedy for wildlife but for people as well. A Coast Guard helicopter crashed trying to rescue crew members from the grounded freighter. Six people were lost at sea in the 43-degree water; the four Coast Guard members onboard survived.
The internationally recognized IBRRC has responded to more than 200 spills since its formation in 1971. On this spill, the bird rescue group is working with the oil spill response co-op Alaska Chadux Corporation.
Mystery spill leaves oily wake in Southern California
More than 1,400 birds, mainly Western Grebes, came into the San Pedro, CA center after an oil slick first struck along the Ventura and Los Angeles County coastline on January 13, 2005. As late as April 2005, a couple dozen oil covered birds were still showing up sporadically in need of attention.
A little more than 200 birds were released back into the wild. At least 300 of the birds brought to the center died or had to be euthanized.
This was the first major test of the Los Angeles area bird center. The permanent facility was built with state funds and opened in March of 2001. IBRRC manages the center for the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). It operates a year-round rehabilitation program for sick and injured birds. A small dedicated staff and a large contingent of local volunteers help make the non-profit San Pedro center a valuable contribution to the local wildlife community.
The spill proved to be a stubborn mess. State Fish and Game authorities are still trying to determine the source of the oil. Early reports tied the oil in the water to the disastrous mudslide that struck the La Conchita area on January 11, 2005. The spill was originally called the Ventura mystery spill.
Feather samples from oiled birds have ruled out other sources of oil, primarily oil from platforms off Ventura and Santa Barbara coastlines. Officials think the oil may have come from a broken pipeline onshore. But that has yet to be determined. Some wildlife experts believe that a total of 3,000 to 5,000 birds will ultimately be affected by the spill. It’s the largest California spill in 15 years in terms of bird injuries and deaths. The area that was affected stretched from Santa Barbara to Playa del Rey – some 80+ miles of coastline.
The birds most affected in this spill were Clark’s Grebes, Western Grebes and Common Loons. These are mostly species that float or raft off shore where the concentration of oil seems to be heaviest. Birds that get oiled and don’t get treated quickly – face a certain death. Without attention, birds cannot thermo-regulate and usually die within days.
After birds are captured and stabilized, they are transported to the nearest full-time rehabilitation center. In this spill it is the San Pedro bird center for treatment. State officials warned the public not to approach the oiled birds, pointing out that grebes have particularly sharp beaks. They are advising people who came across the birds to call (562) 342-7222.
If you do catch the birds please put them in a big box with air holes and a towel at the bottom.
About the IBRRC/OWCN partnership:
The International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) plays two major roles within the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). First, IBRRC acts as the lead oiled bird response organization that, under the management of the OWCN, responds to most of the oil spills that affect birds, reptiles and fresh water aquatic mammals in California. Secondly, IBRRC is contracted to develop and teach a series of annual trainings for OWCN participants. These trainings are designed to familiarize members with concepts in oiled wildlife capture and rehabilitation.