tagged w/ Pelican Chicks
Baby animals in oil spill face uncertain future
Photo: A baby laughing gull impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is seen at the Fort Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Buras, La., T AP –
By JANET McCONNAUGHEY, Associated Press Writer Janet Mcconnaughey, Associated Press Writer – Mon Jul 12, 4:25 pm ET
FORT JACKSON, La. – The smallest victims are the biggest challenge for crews rescuing birds fouled with oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill.
There's no way to know how many chicks have been killed by the oil, or starved because their parents were rescued or died struggling in a slick.
"There are plenty of oiled babies out there," said Rebecca Dmytryk of the International Bird Rescue Research Center, one of the groups working to clean oiled animals.
The lucky ones end up in a cleaning center at Fort Jackson, a pre-Civil War historic site on the Mississippi River delta south of New Orleans.
Pelican chicks often come in cold because oil has matted down the fluffy down that's meant to keep them warm. They must be warmed quickly just to survive long enough to be cleaned. And the youngest must be taught to eat.
"They only know their parents regurgitating food into their mouths. They don't know how to pick stuff up," said Dmytryk, whose organization is working with Tri-State Bird Rescue, a company hired by BP to coordinate animal rescue and cleaning in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
That means tube feeding three times a day. Others, a bit older and accustomed to taking fish from a parent's throat, must be hand-fed until they can eat fish from a bowl.
Adults can be checked a few times a day, but babies needed two staffers' full-time attention to be sure they are eating and are warm.
Many adults and juvenile pelicans get coated with heavy oil diving for fish. That doesn't happen with the chicks, though they may wade into oily puddles or get smeared by oil from their parents' feathers.
In general, rescuers don't go into nesting colonies, said Mike Carloss, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist. He said most rescued chicks were near shorelines or were on nests so low that oil washed onto them.
Lightly oiled chicks will lose the oil when they shed their down feathers, he said. "We've seen a lot of those birds in those stages make it. A lot of them are fledging now. It gives you hope that is the right thing to do."
Nearly 60 pelican chicks and more than 600 adults were brought to Fort Jackson in June after oil washed onto a rookery on Queen Bess and other nearby islands in coastal Louisiana.
They're among more than 1,000 oiled birds and more than 100 oiled sea turtles rescued since the BP-leased rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. About three-quarters of the birds and all but a handful of turtles have been cleaned in Louisiana.
All but two of the sea turtles — a 150-pound oiled loggerhead dubbed Big Mama and an 85-pound loggerhead that was sick but free of oil — are juveniles, ranging from saucer- to dinner-plate size.
Doses of fluids, antibiotics and a mix of cod-liver oil and mayonnaise used to help break up the oil they've swallowed are administered based on the animal's weight. But the basic treatment is the same.
"The difference is it takes five people to lift Big Mama and her sister. It only takes one person to lift the little guys," said Michele Kelley, Louisiana's sea turtle and marine mammal stranding coordinator.
Baby turtles leave their sandy nests and head straight for the sea knowing everything a turtle needs to know.
Chicks need far more care.
Keeping them warm can be the biggest challenge, and tern chicks are among the hardest to keep alive because they're so small, said IBRRC staffer Mark Russell.
The birds lose body heat through their skin, and smaller animals have more skin in proportion to their size than larger creatures. Some of the tern chicks are smaller than a tennis ball.
The chicks also tend to be dehydrated and malnourished.
"If they're dehydrated, they don't want to eat because they feel sick," Russell said. And they're so small that it's hard to keep a tube down their throats to give water and liquid food.
In the week he'd been in Louisiana, he knew of two or three tern chicks that died, Russell said Friday.
Once a chick is eating on its own, staff have as little contact with it as possible.
"We don't want to be raising what is commonly referred to as a pier rat," said Wendy Fox, director of Pelican Harbor Seabird Station, the Miami rehabilitation center where the pelican chicks were moved Saturday.
The babies will be housed next to adult "role models," and eventually with adults, Fox said. Their pens also have pools deep enough to dive for fish. Pelicans take five to six months to reach independence.
At Fort Jackson, one of the youngsters perched alongside a pool and flapped its wings energetically.
"See that?" Holcomb said. "He's almost ready to learn to fly!"Baby animals in oil spill face uncertain future
Photo: A baby laughing gull... more
Updated: May 1, 2010
In the Gulf to help
IBBRC team lending a hand in wildlife response as oil spill hits Louisiana coastline
gulf spill photo
River of oil: 210,000 gallons of oil are spewing out into the Gulf of Mexico. (U.S. Coast Guard)
A team of aquatic-bird rescue specialists from International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) in California has been activated in an effort to support local groups preparing for oil spill impact on wildlife in Louisiana.
The team of four wildlife rescue experts will be led by oil spill veteran and IBRRC Director, Jay Holcomb, who has responded to 200+ oil spills around the world, including the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The team will be working to support local wildlife groups and other organizations as preparations continue for the potential of wildlife casualties from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
“This is a real team effort between all groups involved,” says Holcomb. “While International Bird Rescue has a great deal of experience at managing large-scale oiled wildlife rescue efforts, our primary role here will be to support local groups and to work together to make sure we do everything we can to minimize the impact on local wildlife.”
As well as Holcomb, the team will include a team veterinarian, rehabilitation manager and capture specialist. Once on the ground, the International Bird Rescue Team will work with local organizations to determine the need for additional deployments in the coming days or weeks.
Jay Holcomb - Jay has been the Executive Director at International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) since 1988. Since then Jay has led IBRRC’s oiled wildlife rescue team on over 200 oil spill responses around the world, including spills in France, Germany, Spain, Norway, Estonia, Mexico and the Galapagos Islands as well as in the US.
Heather Nevill – Heather is a native of Louisiana and is IBRRC’s Response Team Veterinarian as well as the Veterinarian for IBRRC’s Los Angeles Bird Rescue Center.
Julie Skoglund – Julie is the Rehabilitation Manager for IBRRC’s Los Angeles Bird Rescue Center. She has responded to over a dozen oil spills and recently managed the rescue of over 400 brown pelicans in Southern California.
Duane Titus – Duane is a member of IBRRC’s Emergency Response team as well as a Capture Specialist for California-based WildRescue. Duane is a Facilities and Search and Capture Specialist.
Background on spill
The oil spill involves a deepwater drilling platform approximately 45 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana.The drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded on April 20, 2010 and sank on in 5,000 feet of water. More than 100 workers scrambled off the burning rig in lifeboats. 11 workers are missing and presumed dead.
On April 29, the U.S. Coast Guard says torrent of oil is five times larger than previous estimates. The leak is now gushing 5,000 barrels — or 210,000 gallons — of crude oil a day, not a 1,000 barrels that was originally reported. While engineers work feverishly to cap the well, some officials worry the leak could go on for months – potentially becoming a devastating spill on epic proportions.
Bird species at risk along the fragile gulf coast include Louisiana's state bird, the brown pelican. Their breeding season has just started.
According to reports from the National Audubon Society, "Important Bird Areas" or IBAs that could be threatened by the slick include, Chandeleur Islands IBA and Gulf Islands National Seashore IBA in Louisiana and Mississippi; also in Louisiana, the Delta National Wildlife Refuge and Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area.
We've been there before
IBRRC isn't a stranger to Louisiana oil spills. In 2005 it assisted local wildlife rescue groups following the Tropical Storm Arlene. Following the storm, Breton National Wildlife Refuge was hard hit, where thousands birds were in the middle of nesting season. As the storm swept over the area it carried with it light crude oil that had spilled from a nearby oil rig. Even though the spill was only 12-15 barrels, the storm carried it on the waves, which swept over the low island, covering the pelican chicks with oil.
Within days a large warehouse in Venice, Louisiana was quickly converted into a mash unit with 70 wildlife specialists and veterinarians evaluating and medically stabilizing the surviving birds before they could be washed. A total of 959 birds were recovered; all but three were brown pelicans and of these 268 were live chicks.
What you can do to help
As an individual, you may feel you can’t help oiled wildlife. You can. Help the non-profit organizations that help oiled animals in your area. If you live in a coastal area, there is an organization struggling to help them – support it. If you live in California, you can help support International Bird Rescue's ongoing rescue work by donating, becoming a member or adopting a bird.
To report oiled wildlife affected by the Gulf oil spill please call the Wildlife reporting hotline at 1-866-557-1401.
IBRRC has been receiving an outpouring of support and phone calls from people wishing to volunteer to help at the Gulf Oil Spill. To learn how to help, you must contact the BP Community Support Team Hotline at 1-866-448-5816.
Please note: This is voice mail system, so be ready to leave a message with your contact information.Updated: May 1, 2010
In the Gulf to help
IBBRC team lending a hand in wildlife... more