Calling All Pelican Lovers!

If you love pelicans and if you would like to help out, May 7 is a day you should mark on your calendar. On this day, between 5-7pm, you can join other pelican enthusiasts as they help survey California Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) roost sites along the coasts from California up to Washington state. The idea is to count juvenile and adult birds, take photos, and enter the data into the eBird portal. This tri-state survey will help define the distribution and abundance of the pelican, and complement a 47-year time series of monitoring of this pelican subspecies, which was removed from the Endangered List in 2009.

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Brown Pelican from the Refugio Oil Spill.  Photo Credit: Mike Harris

Remember the oil spill that occurred in 2015 near Santa Barbara? The pelicans that were oiled and rehabilitated from that event are banded with green color bands with white numbers. A small subset of these are also satellite tagged. If you see any of these birds, or one of the control pelicans wearing blue color bands, we want to hear about it! We are tracking these birds to get a better idea of how birds fare after being oiled and rehabilitated. Please help us (and the pelicans!) by keeping an eye out for these banded birds. If you do happen to see any of these birds, please report it by going to our website and clicking on the link at the bottom of the home page.

So grab your binoculars, spotting scope, a good camera, and head to the coast on May 7. For more information, take a look here and here.

Thanks for caring!


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Encouragement from the Next Generation

Here at headquarters, we deal with a lot of mail on behalf of the Network – advertisements, catalogues, invitations, and by far the most exciting: notes of encouragement.  Often these notes come from enthusiastic young people who have been learning about oil, oil spills, and the environment.


By Parshall

We’re always thrilled to receive these thoughtful notes and drawings.  They’re a reminder that not only are we working for the animals, but we’re working to preserve the wonder of the natural world for future generations.  The animals aren’t able to speak for themselves (and if they could, they’d tell us to stay away from them), but these students, our developing researchers, advocates, innovators, volunteers, and spill responders, certainly can.

So I’ll let the voices of our future take it from here!

“Thank you for saving every plant, animal, or any kind of anything… I would want to work there too. But I’m only 9 years old. I’ll probably work there when I’m older.” – Ava

“Thank you for taking care of our environment. Without you, thousands of animals would have perished. We thank you for giving your time and effort… The thing that concerns me the most about an oil spill is that one might hurt the environment for good.” – Sophie


By Suzanna, Ava, Rhea, Kate, Sarah, and Sam

“We are writing this letter to thank you for saving wildlife from oil spills. Recently, we have been learning about how hard your job is and what it takes to save poor animals from oil. We did experiments that helped us learn about how hard your job would be on a daily basis. We also learned how delicate you have to be with the animals to ensure that they don’t get hurt… We would also like to thank you… again. For the effort and hard work. Also that you save all those animals.” – Nikkie, Lisa, Lily, and Andy


By Libby

Thank you for helping animals that have been effected by oil spills… I love all animals so when I hear about an oil spill my first thought is, “Are the animals okay?” – a 5th grader

“I am writing to thank you for keeping our oceans and marine life free of oil pollution. My class and I know that it is hard work because we did a pie-pan oil spill cleanup experiment… My group and I discovered that this is not an easy task. We can’t even imagine trying to clean up real-life oil spill in the ocean and handle real, breathing, wiggling animals.  Again I want to thank you so much for volunteering to make a difference for the environment. Your time and effort to keep our ocean life oil-free is highly appreciated by millions and, most importantly, by Mother Earth. Keep up the great work!” – Emma

National Volunteer Week Round Up

Hi Everyone,

To wrap up National Volunteer Week, we have a re-cap of our volunteer profiles that we posted this week.  A big thank you to each and every one of the OWCN’s volunteers – we can’t do this without you!



mary feeding swiftsMARY PIERCE

Mary Pierce has been volunteering with International Bird Rescue since 2007 and in avian wildlife rehabilitation for 16 years. She also volunteers at Native Songbird Care & Conservation.

When asked about the best part of volunteering, Mary says, “having the opportunity to help all of the beautiful and amazing birds that come into care. It is very rewarding to be able to give them a second chance at life and freedom. It never ceases to amaze me how each species as well as each individual is so vastly different and unique”.

And on oil spill response, Mary says, “Oil spill response is a difficult and heart wrenching job. It can also be extremely fulfilling and rewarding. I feel that as human beings, it is our responsibility to do all we can to mitigate the effects of our negative environmental impacts. California is very lucky to have an organization like the OWCN and I am proud to be a part of it”.

When not working with birds, Mary enjoys working with stained glass and has recently been obsessed with finding and trying all sorts of bird related crafts, and is working on transforming her yard with native plants.


Andrea Muenter has volunteered with Pacific Wildlife Care since 1999, and with OWCN since 2003. She first helped respond to an oil spill in 2005 for the Ventura Oiled Bird Incident.

Her favorite thing about volunteering is making a difference and giving these animals another chance. When asked about her thoughts on oiled wildlife response, she says, “Wild and free is what these animals are all about. Taking that away from them by damaging their lives and habitat is something that hits me very hard. Oiled wildlife response is so important to me because it allows me to fix the wrong and get these animals back to what they were meant to be… wild and free”.

Andrea’s favorite animal is a tiger, and when asked to share a fun fact about herself, she says, “Aside from the wildlife, my other passion is playing volleyball. I play beach volleyball at Pismo Beach as often as I can. I am the team manager, organizer and captain of a women’s indoor volleyball team who is now playing in the 55-59 age group. We travel the state and the country to play against women in our age bracket. Six years ago, I traveled to Europe on a Goodwill tour and played volleyball against Italian, French and British teams. I really love the sport!”.


Dani Nicholson volunteers at Pacific Wildlife Care AND The Marine Mammal Center! Dani has been volunteering with OWCN since 2003, and her favorite thing about volunteering is learning skills to help save animals and getting to work with like-minded people.

When asked about her thoughts on oiled wildlife response, she says “I have always taken    oiled wildlife response very seriously. I believe that we have a responsibility to care for the animals whose lives have been threatened or endangered by man’s mistakes. I’ve seen many birds first hand who have been pitifully oiled and who, after having been rescued, stabilized and washed, returned to their full selves and who appear whole again. It is an incredible feeling to have contributed to that”.

Dani loves all things in nature and art, recently delving into ceramics, and she loves “making something from the earth which can be beautiful and possibly functional. I lose myself in hand building pottery, allowing myself to relax and to feel the earth between my fingers”.

Dani has two sons and two grandsons, loves swimming in the ocean, and has American Indian in her blood and in her spirit.

12986919_988769241158097_1644524231654225901_nGAYLE UYEHARA

Gayle Uyehara volunteers at the California Wildlife Center. Gayle has worked with animals for the last 35 years and has spent the last 13 volunteering with wildlife rehabilitation and OWCN.

Her favorite thing about volunteering is, “Besides the ability to work with and help save wildlife, I love learning and passing what I learn on to others. Meeting and working with like-minded people is a bonus that comes with being part of a good organization”.

Gayle responded in 2005 to the Ventura Oiled Bird Incident and in 2015 for the Refugio Incident. On oiled wildlife response, Gayle says, “The training we receive allows us to adjust both rehab and rescue skills for oiled wildlife response and as long as mankind continues to negatively impact the environment and the animals, we need trained people ready to respond. Why do I feel it is important to respond? It’s the right thing to do”.

As many of you know, Gayle is very passionate about her family, as well as animals and art. You’ve probably seen many photos that Gayle has taken, grace the pages of the OWCN blog, and I’ve had the privilege of seeing many of her beautiful drawings. Her favorite animal? She loves them all, but is partial to birds.

12963784_988239911211030_1983748076668969557_n.jpgNANCY MIX

Nancy Mix is a volunteer at The Marine Mammal Center. Nancy has been volunteering for most of her adult life and has focused on wildlife the past 14 years. While she volunteers with animals first, of equal importance is working with other volunteers, of which she has made many friends over the years.

When asked about oil spill response, Nancy says “Responding to oiled wildlife events is a must. Essentially what we’re doing is trying to minimize someone else’s damage to our wildlife and the environment. From the first phone call your every action is to try and save as many animals as possible from harm”.

I asked Nancy to share something interesting about herself, and she said “Not many people know I own a race horse. She raced for many years and is now retired. I chuckle when I think of how to identify myself. Wife, mother, grandmother, rehabber and a member of The Jockey Club”.




Reducing Wildlife Impacts

For my initial blog post (yes I admit being in absentia on this score), I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about a component of oil spill response that to some degree hangs out in the background of OWCN, but can be especially important in certain types of spills.  It is the part of potential response involving “hazing and deterrents”, or as I like to call it – “Preventive Medicine” for wildlife in oil spills.
TWV_HazingAs the Hazing Coordinator, I lead the hazing and deterrence effort within OWCN.  Because of our expansion to include inland spills, the types of wildlife that we are now tasked with trying to prevent becoming affected includes everything from birds to pinnipeds, amphibians to bears.  In order to assure readiness to accomplish this task, we have expanded our core hazing team in both numbers and locations in the state, and have expanded the range and amount of equipment that is prepositioned for this task. We have incorporated a number of wildlife biologists working for The Institute for Wildlife Studies into this core team due to their extensive experience with a wide variety of species, both birds and terrestrial mammals.  I am also working within the Field Operations group with Scott and Kyra to more closely integrate hazing and recovery activities to better utilize personnel in the areas most needed during a spill. We are regularly consulting other individuals who do hazing and deterrence to get ideas, and are working to widen the group of tools available to us.

Over the past several years we have conducted a number of trainings of volunteers, contractors, and staff in hazing techniques and tools, resulting in a dozen core hazing team members that are trained to lead field teams, and many volunteers that are trained to assist in a hazing effort.  Besides teaching how to properly utilize the tools we have available, we also test or research the wide array of behavioral responses to hazing that various species might have.
TWV_TrainingIn association with keeping up with the latest techniques in wildlife hazing and deterrence, last month I attended the Vertebrate Pest Conference in Newport Beach to learn what techniques people doing non-lethal human-wildlife conflict management are using that could apply to oil spills.  Some of the techniques described in talks at the conference could be especially important for deterring terrestrial mammal entrance into spill zones, so they were of great interest.  I also presented a talk about OWCN’s mission and work, not only hazing but also recovery and treatment.  This was done with the goal of letting some of the other professionals there know that we could be resource for them in the area of research and collaboration, and to improve overall awareness of the important work that OWCN-affiliated organizations do throughout the state.

Finally, we are expanding our interactions with the UC Research and Extension Station network, whose personnel such as Terry Salmon and Paul Gorenzel really started the initial hazing team work with OSPR, and developed key protocols and references we use today (the manual they created can be downloaded here).

TWV_ZonEspecially on the terrestrial mammal side, personnel from the Extension service often have a lot of expertise with deterrence and hazing, and they have allowed us to utilize several of their facilities for equipment storage.  We are quite appreciative of their cooperation and intend to continue to develop the relationship to allow us to give “best achievable hazing and deterrence” so that ideally, care can be a less necessary part of the equation.

– Winston

Slaking our thirst for knowledge


Roomates at NWRA

Last time, Scott talked about the OWCN membership, member engagement and the responsibility of those of us in Davis to support and engage the other members. It was an important point for each of us to remember. We all become better at what we do when we can learn from each other’s experience and we can best do that when we directly engage with each other. Ideally with a cold drink!

Recently Stephanie Herman and I had the opportunity to attend the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association’s (NWRA) annual symposium in Norman, Oklahoma. The NWRA annual gathering is the meeting of rehabilitators anywhere in the world and while most of the attendees are from North America each one also includes a handful of people from other countries such as Canada, Australia, India, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, etc. It is 5 very full days of lectures, labs, workshops, roundtables and tours on everything from “Baby Bird Basics” and “Diarrhea in Cottontail Rabbits” to “Polypropylene Mesh Implantation for Radioulnar Synostosis in Raptors”, literally something for everyone, from the novice rehabilitator to the wildlife veterinarian. It is also a chance to network with long time colleagues and catch up with old friends and meet tomorrows leaders in a rapidly changing and advancing field.


While it is often hard to find the time or money when you work in the non-profit world, I have managed to attend many of these conferences over the last 20 years, but they never get old. There are always new topics and new teachers and new takes on something you thought you already knew all about. Every presentation contains a nugget for the curious with a thirst for knowledge and everyone involved is more than willing to share what they have learned and why it is important. OWCN member organizations such as International Bird Rescue, Lindsey Wildlife Experience, Bird AllyX, Monterey SPCA, Peninsula Humane Society and others are regularly among the presenters as well the audience.

Our goal of best achievable care is an elusive one. As in Zeno’s Achilles Paradox, it keeps moving away as we approach, so that when we get to where it was yesterday, it has moved further down the path. All of us must keep moving, learning, and improving if we want to avoid falling farther behind than we already are. In the last year the OWCN has provided support to give all OWCN members (affiliated individuals and organizations, as well as others around the world) opportunities to continue to grow as responders and rehabilitators. This has been through our training programs, our outreach/engagement activities, and through a wide variety of meetings of colleagues at NWRA, the California Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators Conference, the Pacific Seabird Group, the World Seabird Group, the Effects of Oil On Wildlife Conference, just to name a few.

I hope you had a chance to participate in one or more of these events. If so, I hope you came away with new knowledge and an increased commitment to chasing best achievable care in both response as well as your day-to-day efforts in your organization. I know I did.


OWCN Member Organization Engagement

NEW California Map shutterstock_135005765 [Converted]

The Oiled Wildlife Care Network’s Member Organizations

As a member of the OWCN management team located at UC Davis, I am often asked a very simple question: What is the Oiled Wildlife Care Network?  While the answer may seem relatively simple, I find myself often providing a long winded response, as I attempt to portray that the OWCN is a united force composed of diverse organizations that individually excel but collectively impress.  In the words of Aristotle, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

So along with a strong pride for this cohesive resource comes a responsibility to support and engage our member organization community.  While many are likely aware of our public outreach efforts, others may not realize that we also offer internal outreach which we have chosen to term engagement. Member organization engagement provides a fantastic opportunity for OWCN management staff to connect directly with our member organization’s staff and volunteers (some of which are current OWCN responders, others are hopefully future responders).  The format and presentation style of these engagement events can be customized based on the specific member organization involved, but often consists of an informational overview presentation to both staff and volunteers with a specific highlight on how folks can get further involved and properly pre-trained for spill response.

We have already lined up a few of these events in the coming months with member organizations, including:

  • April 28th – The Marine Mammal Center
  • May 21st – Monterey Bay Aquarium & Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center
  • August 12th – Lindsay Wildlife Experience

If you are involved with a member organization listed above and wish to learn more about the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, make sure to attend!

If you believe your member organization would benefit from hosting an OWCN engagement event this year, please let us know by emailing us at

Cheers to our amazing member orgs!


Refugio pelican study update


It is well-established that pelicans on the West coast tend to have low survival and reproductive success during El Niño years, and sadly that is being borne out by our data from this study. Many of our tagged birds have stopped transmitting during January and February. While this could be a result of failed satellite tags, it is likely that most lost transmissions represent mortality.

Currently, we have six birds still transmitting: two controls and four rehabilitated spill birds. In the map above, the two most northern birds are the controls and the remainder are rehabilitated birds.

Winter in Baja was rough this year, but now that spring has sprung, there’s hope that the surviving birds are at lower risk. And, the good news regarding the study is that the control and rehabilitated birds are surviving at the same rate, which suggests that oiled birds can go on to survive their experience. There’s unlikely to be much successful pelican breeding this year, but it’s reassuring that the mortality rate of the rehabilitated birds is not higher than that of the controls.

Keep reporting those green-banded (and blue-banded) birds!