News & Events

UC DAVIS LEADS BIRD RESCUE IN SAN FRANCISCO OIL SPILL

University of California, Davis

October 30, 2009

UC Davis veterinary wildlife experts are on the scene of an oil spill today in San Francisco Bay. Find the latest news online: [OWCN blog]

UC Davis veterinarian Michael Ziccardi, an international authority on the rescue and treatment of oiled wildlife, said staffers from the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center and its partner organizations are in boats at the Dubai Star oil spill to assess the situation and collect any oiled birds they find.

If oiled birds are eventually captured, they will be taken either to Oiled Wildlife Care Network member organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area or to a customized rescue trailer -- a traveling emergency
room that can be towed from Davis to the spill command post. There, veterinary staffers will assess their condition and give them first aid.

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.

Once assessed, the birds will be taken to the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Fairfield, where they will receive the world's most advanced veterinary care for oiled wildlife.

At the center, the first order of business is not to remove oil from the birds. Instead, it is to warm the birds and nourish them. Once stabilized, they will be better able to withstand the stresses of being washed.

The Fairfield center is a 12,000-square-foot, $2.7 million facility capable of caring for up to 1,000 sick birds. It is the major Northern California rescue center in the statewide Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which  comprises 12 rescue facilities and 25 organizations prepared to care for oiled wildlife on short notice.

Because of an algae bloom earlier this month off the Oregon coast, the Fairfield center already houses 450 sick birds being cared for by the International Bird Rescue Research Center. Ziccardi said, however, that it can handle whatever oiled birds are affected during this spill and if needed, he will send the Oregon birds to sister facilities elsewhere in California.

At each California rescue center, UC Davis wildlife veterinarians work in partnership with local, trained wildlife rehabilitators. At the Fairfield center, those rehabilitators are staff members of the International Bird Rescue Research Center, Lindsay Wildlife Museum, WildCare and the Department of Fish and Game.

At this time, on Friday morning, a corps of trained volunteers is standing by to staff the rescue center, if needed. Later, if more volunteers are needed, a notice will be posted online at <http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/owcn/>.

Jonna Mazet, another UC Davis veterinarian and oiled-bird expert, has estimated that for every oiled seabird that is found washed ashore, an estimated 10 to 100 birds died at sea.

The Oiled Wildlife Care Network is funded by the California Office of Spill Prevention and Response, a unit of the 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.

The mission of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network is to ensure that wildlife exposed to petroleum products receive the best possible capture and care by ensuring a rapid response, coordinating effective  emergency care in a spill crisis and administering an ongoing research program.

In addition to giving veterinary care, the network conducts and funds basic research into the effects of oil on wildlife and applied research into treatments that will improve survival.


About UC Davis

For 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has 31,000 students, an annual research budget that exceeds $500 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges -- Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science -- and advanced degrees from six professional schools -- Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

Media contact:

* Sylvia Wright, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-7704, swright@ucdavis.edu