Oil Crisis! Our Wildlife At Risk

Sometimes, oil and animals mix. Consider how ducks produce an oily substance from their preen glands to create a waterproof barrier that protects their feathers. It’s why we call our oil-only sorbent socks and booms FiberDuck (in case wondering about the name was keeping you awake at night.)

When it comes to oil spills and wildlife, however, oil isn’t protective, it’s harmful. Fortunately, OWCN is on it. The Oiled Wildlife Care Network comprises more than thirty different member organizations, including world-class aquaria, universities, scientific organizations and rehabilitation groups.

Recognized as a world leader in oil spill response, rescue, rehabilitation and research, OWCN is an outstanding example of what’s possible when diverse institutions and organizations work collaboratively toward a common goal.

How to Respond If You Find An Oiled Animal

When we see a person or animal in distress, the instinctive response is to dive in and help. But just as medical experts advise not moving an injured person until paramedics arrive, OWCN warns that you should not attempt to rescue an oiled animal. The reasons?

  1. Oiled animals come to shore because they are cold and exhausted. If you approach, they will attempt to return to the water. This will reduce their chances of survival.
  2. Handling oiled animals can pose a health and safety risk to both you and the animal you are trying to rescue.
  3. Wild animals can cause injuries and carry disease. Oil is a dangerous chemical that can cause damage to the skin, respiratory, and gastrointestinal tracts.Oil can damage internal organs, such as the liver, and may cause cancer.
  4. During an oil spill response, we will deploy trained wildlife rescue personnel to collect oiled animals. Even when there isn’t an active oil spill, it is not uncommon to find individual animals affected by natural seeps of oil along the California coastline. OWCN Member Organizations are equipped and trained to care for these individual oiled animals.

What To Do

If you see an oiled animal, report the animal(s) to the OWCN Response Hotline: 1-877-UCD-OWCN (823-6926).

Be prepared to report:

  • Type of animal (e.g., bird, seal)
  • Number of animals you observed
  • Specific location (e.g., beach name, nearby cross streets, local landmarks)
  • Time of sighting.

OWCN works with both “pre-trained” volunteers, who have an ongoing relationship with one of OWCN’s network member organizations, and “spontaneous” volunteers: concerned members of the public who want to help out during an oil spill event. Between the two groups, OWCN is equipped to handle an oil spill wildlife emergency with expertise, efficiency and love, keeping our animal companions safe and healthy.


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