Experts are concerned over the projected scope of the damage
By Jennifer Viegas
When it comes to organizing efforts to rescue wildlife affected by oil spills like the one in the Gulf of Mexico that made landfall in Louisiana late Thursday, timing is everything. Training is essential for volunteers, who could themselves suffer health problems if they should come into contact with the oil.
"The public can't just go out and pick up oiled wildlife," Nils Warnock, field operations specialist at the California Oiled Wildlife Care Network, managed by the University of California at Davis, explained to Discovery News.
He added that an emergency phone number (866-557-1401) has been established where people can report animals affected by the oil spill. The public is encouraged to have ready the number and type of animals, the date and time they were seen, their location and any observations about the animals' behavior.
When trained professionals respond to such a report, they generally go through a seven-part rescue and treatment process.
The first step is to search for, and collect, both live and dead oiled wildlife in the area. Next, the animals are given a full physical examination. The animals are warmed, fed, hydrated and rested for a period of around 48 hours before they are washed in a series of tubs filled with a mixture of diluted cleaning agent and hot, softened water.
The cleaned animals are then placed in outdoor pools, or other appropriate housing. This "pre-release conditioning" can take anywhere from three days to several months, depending on the condition of the animal. The animals then receive another medical examination and are banded or tagged before released back into a clean habitat. The final step is a post-release assessment, which often entails tagging the animals with radio devices and monitoring them.