Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Friday, July 23, 2010

Questions I want answers to when I go to the Gulf

Laughing Gull
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
1) How many birds have been oiled on Raccoon Island and other breeding colony sites?

2) What training have people been required to have to pick up oiled birds in past spills?

3) What training are people required to have to pick up oiled birds in this disaster? Are there enough responders to reach reported birds in a timely manner?

4) Oiled birds on Raccoon Island have been reported several times, but no one has yet rescued the still living birds or collected the dead ones. Why not?

5) If there is not enough manpower to collect dead birds, doesn't that make the official figures of oiled wildlife ludicrously low?

6) Shorebird migration is already underway, and songbird, waterfowl, loon, and Whooping Crane migration will be kicking in soon. What preparations are being made to ensure that oiled migrants are rescued in a timely way?

7) According to the website's fact sheet about oiled birds:
Once a call is received and it is determined to be
within the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response
area, a wildlife response team is notified. A team
equipped with appropriate personal protective
equipment (PPE) is dispatched from staging areas
that are based on the location of the animal, the
previous day’s response activities, and anticipated
movement of oil. Given the dynamic nature of
the situation, the weather, and the location of the
distressed animal, response time can vary.

Once the bird is located by the response team, it
is placed carefully in an animal carrier or kenneltype
container. The bird is then taken to one of
four area rehabilitation centers staffed by employees
of the Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research Center,
the International Bird Rescue Research Center,
and other paraprofessionals and volunteers,
all of whom are trained in wildlife rehabilitation.
The rehabilitation centers are located in Ft. Jackson,
Louisiana; Gulfport, Mississippi; Theodore,
Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida.

Questions: How many people and vehicles are available each day on the "Wildlife Response Team" to pick up oiled birds? And do wildlife rehab experts agree that one rehab site per state is sufficient? Do wildlife rehab experts agree that having some small mobile field stations, located where oil appears, is impractical?

I'm sure I'll be coming up with more questions when I get down there. I'm hoping to find that there are an adequate number of rehabbers collecting, transporting, and treating wild birds. I'm hoping that it's not true that birds reported to the Wildlife Response Team days ago are dying and the Response Team has not responded. I'm hoping that there are plans underway to monitor songbirds as well as waterbirds, and adequate trained teams will be able to respond to emergencies during migration.