Archived News


January 4, 2002

As the number of oiled seabirds found on Northern California beaches since Nov. 24 tops 1,000, the regional rescue center is asking again for volunteer help.

"This is a very persistent spill. We continue to receive oiled birds daily from beaches between Bodega Bay and Monterey," said Michael Ziccardi, one of four UC Davis wildlife veterinarians who manage animal care for the California Oiled Wildlife Care Network. "Before the holidays, we had a terrific response to our call for volunteers, but now we have only one-fifth the number that we need."

This extended emergency, named the San Mateo Mystery Spill because its source has not yet been identified, has been the first crisis to use the new San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center. Located in Cordelia, the 12,000-square-foot, $2.7 million facility was completed in February. It is one of nine regional centers in the statewide Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

As of this morning, a total of 1,005 birds, mostly common murres, had been recovered. Of those, 577 were found dead. Of the 428 that reached the rescue center alive, 131 died while in care, 97 had to be euthanized, 92 have been rehabilitated and released, and 108 are in various stages of recovery at the center.

That 47 percent survival rate means the new center is a success, Ziccardi said. "Unlike any previous spill in the Bay Area, we now have a facility in place, designed specifically to care for up to 1,000 oiled birds, with trained staff immediately available on-site. From the first day, birds have received care as soon as they were found, instead of having to wait, sick and cold, while we put together a rescue center."

When a bird arrives at the center, it is evaluated, treated, washed and rehabilitated by the professional staff of International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), one of 24 participant organizations in the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. Volunteers help throughout the process.

IBRRC director Jay Holcomb said this spill is particularly frustrating because it is ongoing and because it is affecting common murres, whose numbers have been reduced by other spills over the years.

"Unlike nature, which tends to take the weak, oil spills do not discriminate," he said. "All birds are affected, including the breeding adults that are needed to keep the population at a healthy level."

Anyone wishing to volunteer should call the center at (707)207-0380, extension 107. Needed are volunteers age 18 or older who can work four-hour shifts helping the IBRRC staff prepare bird food, clean pools and wash soiled towels. Shifts run from 8 a.m. to noon, noon to 4 p.m., and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

No previous experience or training is needed for those volunteer positions. Volunteers who would like to serve in other positions that require handling the oiled birds must complete one four-hour training class. Two classes will be offered next week: Friday, Jan. 11, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 12, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Oiled Wildlife Care Network is managed statewide by the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, a unit of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. The network is funded by the Office of Spill Prevention and Response of the California Department of Fish and Game. The Fish and Game monies come from interest on the $50 million California Oil Spill Response Trust Fund, built from assessments on the oil industry.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Because of the veterinarians' and rehabilitators' workloads, we ask that you visit the rescue center for interviews and photographs/video only at these times: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Both times typically have a full variety of activities, such as bird-cleaning, tube-feeding, and sometimes initial intake of oiled birds. If you must visit at another time, please contact one of the PIOs listed below.

Media contacts:
-- Sylvia Wright, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-7704,

--Oiled Wildlife Care Network

*The information above was provided by Campus News Service