Oiled wildlife being rehabilitated

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

PORT ARTHUR, TX (KPLC) - The U.S. Coast Guard is overseeing the rehabilitation of a handful of birds that have been oiled since the spill in the Port Arthur Ship Channel.  At last count five birds were being rehabilitated, which includes washing with detergent and then kept under the watchful eye of rehab experts.

Black oil laps at the bank along the waterway where crews use special equipment and booms to try to collect and contain what remains of the spill.  Birds and wildlife seem to have followed their instincts and gotten away from the area where 462,000 gallons of crude oil spilled after a collision between two vessels.  At last word six birds had been oiled, two of which died.  The others have been washed and cleaned at a rehabilitation site in Port Arthur.  Says Rhonda Murgatroyd with Wildlife Response Services LLC, "We have to remove the oil from the bird.  The oil impedes the insulating abilities of their feathers and so you have to get the oil off of the features but you also have to get the detergent off of the feathers, so it's a very delicate process.  You don't want to disrupt the feather structure.  You have to agitate the water instead of rubbing the feathers."

Anyone who spots an oiled bird or other wildlife should leave it to the experts.  Don't try to rescue it yourself.  They know what to do to increase the creature's chance of survival.  Says Murgatroyd, "We ask them to not touch the bird.  Don't attempt to capture the bird.  It will stress the bird and they can inflict damage to a person."

Richard Arnhart with Texas General Land Office agrees.  "As with any wild animal they can be dangerous and they can peck you, they can hurt you and plus you want to recover them properly.  You don't want to hurt the bird any more than it's already been stressed."

With the extent of the spill damage to wildlife could have been much worse.  Oil recovery vessels, skimmers and boats putting out boom continue their work.  More than nine hundred people are responding to the spill which has affected about nine miles of shoreline.  To report oiled wildlife call 1-888-709-9798.

The company determined to be responsible for the spill will pay the cost of cleanup and wildlife rehabilitation.  The responsible party has not yet been identified by government officials.

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