Oiled Wildlife Care Network

Photo: washing birds during the Cosco Busan spill
Wash room for birds during the Cosco Busan oil spill


This is the step where the oiled animals are finally washed. Birds are washed in tubs of warm soapy water. When the water gets dirty, they are moved to the next tub. They keep getting moved to clean tubs, until all the oil is off them and the water is clear. Sea otters and fur seals have warm soapy water poured on them and massaged into their thick hair coats. Other mammals and sea turtles usually have soap directly placed on the oiled areas and scrubbed. Then they are rinsed off. This step is very important, because all the soap needs to come off, or the animals fur or feathers may not go back to normal and they may not be able to become waterproof. It takes a long time to clean an animal. Birds may take over an hour to wash and rinse, and marine mammals may take several hours.

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