Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What to Do if You Encounter Oiled Wildlife

As those of you following the situation along the Gulf Coast may already know, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research and International Bird Rescue Research Center are the three agencies working together to lead the efforts to help wildlife affected by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The Alabama Wildlife Center supports their dedication and efforts to meet the needs of contaminated wildlife. They are the United State’s leading experts in rehabilitating oiled wildlife.

We would like to remind everyone of the proper course of action to follow if you encounter oiled wildlife along the Gulf:

1. Immediately call the Oiled Wildlife Hotline at 1-866-557-1401 and give the animal's precise location. The hotline representative will then forward the information to the nearest trained personnel to respond. Please be patient as the response time is not immediate.

2. Do not attempt to capture or handle the contaminated animal. Improper handling of oiled wildlife can result in injury to the animal or to you. The defensive behavior of an injured animal can result in injuries to you and/or the animal, and crude oil can be harmful when it comes in contact with human skin.

3. Stay away from the animal. An oiled animal is severely stressed. Loud noises, sudden movements, flash cameras and groups of onlookers will only add to the severe stress the animal is already experiencing. Adding stress to an injured wild animal creates an even more life-threatening situation.

A contaminated animal has likely ingested some oil, which can damage vital organs and is potentially life-threatening. Oiled wildlife should receive a thorough examination, medical treatment and should be stabilized by an experienced professional. In some cases, stabilization may require several days of intensive care before the wash process can even take place.

Washing an oiled animal is a very precise procedure and requires an experienced team to be successful. There are many factors to take into consideration prior to, during and after the wash to ensure success with the least amount of stress to the animal. Proper water temperature, dilution of cleaning agent, handling and washing techniques, post-wash care, housing, waterproofing and reconditioning are among the many variables that can make the difference between life and death for oiled wildlife.

Gulf Coast states are so fortunate to have professional and experienced organizations such as USFWS, Tri-State and IBRRC coordinating efforts to assist oiled wildlife during this unfortunate crisis. When and if additional help is needed, paraprofessionals such as AWC staff and volunteers may be called upon.

If you would like to help, you can sign up for AWC’s Help with Gulf Coast Oil Spill contact list by sending an email to with “Help with Gulf Coast” in the subject line.

You can support AWC’s efforts to assist with wildlife affected by the oil spill and other Alabama wildlife in need bymaking a donation online today. (The picture above is an oiled Great Horned Owl washed at AWC earlier this year.)

1 comment:

  1. Train people to do this independently; the qualified personnel, agencies, and centers will soon be overwhelmed; you can't do it all.