Come Join Our Team!!

The UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center (WHC) is recruiting for the staff position of Care Veterinarian. Under the direction of the Senior Manager – Care Operations of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), this position will coordinate oiled wildlife primary care and processing readiness and response activities both during and between oil spill responses (including training, equipping facilities, and planning for spill response), work in collaboration and coordination with the Field Veterinarian to ensure “best achievable capture and care,” engage in research activities to advance the science behind oiled wildlife care, and actively participate in teaching and public service functions. 

Specific Responsibilities: 

  • Readiness and Response (70%)
    • Provide oversight of veterinary care aspects for OWCN’s Care Operations program. 
    • Lead in the development, review, and revision of veterinary aspects of care protocols. 
    • Oversee inventory and maintenance of veterinary equipment and supplies and develop and maintain relationships with vets and techs at OWCN Member Organizations. 
    • During oil spills, lead and/or manage veterinary efforts in the primary care facility for oiled terrestrial and aquatic birds, mammals, reptiles, and/or amphibians. 
  • Research (15%)
    • Perform research to ensure best achievable capture and care of oiled wildlife. 
    • Mentor OWCN members in developing research projects and skills. 
    • Present and publish research findings at conferences and in peer-reviewed journals. 
  • Teaching & Public Service (15%)
    • Engage in consultations, lectures, workshops, and seminars on wildlife care, medical techniques, and research and represent the OHI, WHC, and the OWCN at various meetings. 
    • Assist in providing clinical and research opportunities for veterinary students/residents. 

Minimum Qualifications: 

  • DVM/VMD/BVSc degree (from an accredited school of veterinary medicine) and appropriate federal/California veterinary licenses (or ability to acquire required licenses within 6 months of hire). Be in good standing in any states where currently or previously licensed. 
  • Experience in the treatment of, and captive husbandry for, free-ranging wildlife. 
  • Expertise in captive wildlife preventive medicine (population health). 
  • Knowledge of medical techniques necessary for diagnosis and treatment of disorders of California wildlife (e.g., restraint, anesthesia, phlebotomy, nutritional delivery systems, radiology, etc.) 
  • Skills to perform basic clinical microbiology, parasitology, hematology, serology, and necropsy, and correlate findings in wildlife species with likely etiologies. 
  • Advanced skills in diplomacy, oral and written communication, interpersonal communication, translation of medical information into lay terms, and networking/team building. 
  • In-depth understanding of veterinary medical and animal welfare laws and regulations, the public’s concern for humane care of animals, and the use of animals for teaching and research within the context of those animal welfare laws and regulations. 

Position Close Date: 18 December 2020 

To apply: Visit 

For Additional Information: Please contact Lorraine Barbosa at 


The Man…The Myth…The Legend?

I am not sure if anyone really knows which Curt Clumpner is, but the discussion/debate would be fascinating!

The OWCN has been blessed to have Curt as part of our history since the beginning – first as part of a Member Organization, later as a core component of our Management Team – and celebrated his retirement at the end of October with mixed emotions. To honor him, I thought I would delve a bit into our history, or at least my recollection of it, to give thoughts as to the important role Curt has played in making what the OWCN is today.

Curt in his earlier years

I first met Curt in the late 90s (1990’s, not 1890’s – yes, we are old but c’mon…) during a very busy time with spills in California. In fact, it was so busy I cannot recall which spill it was – Cape Mohican in SF in 1996, or Ballona Creek (Long Beach), Santa Cruz Mystery Spill, or the first Pt. Reyes tarball event – all of which occurred in 1997. What I can definitely recall was how we collectively responded at that point; immediately racing to the scene with little beyond our own personal gear, linking up on scene with International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) and OSPR staff in the OSPR mobile vet rig, and transporting birds to rehab either to the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, to the MWVCRC facility in Santa Cruz, or to the IBRRC facility in Berkeley. Neither the LA or SF Bay facilities had been built yet; just a glimmer in the eye of Jay Holcomb and Jonna Mazet.

Curt escaping the wash room for a brief moment in 1999

The IBRRC team were rock stars of spill response even at that time – consisting of a core IBRRC staff of Jay, Dee Goodfriend, Flo Tseng, regional staff (such as Curt for the Pacific Northwest and Barbara Callahan for Alaska), and other responders that came in during spills. Jonna and Dave Jessup led the charge, and Scott Newman and I fit in as response vets as needed. Jay had a larger-than-life personality, driven by his total devotion to seabirds, decades of experience, and a habit of not being afraid to make his opinion known. As IBRRC’s Director, he was right more often than he wasn’t, and most of us took our leads from him. However, not all of us…

Curt in the washroom at the Prestige spill, 2002

For those of you that know Curt well, you know that he has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and has the habit of asking for facts and written documentation to support one’s decisions or opinions. This is a tremendous quality in a scientist, but often an exasperating one when on the receiving end of the query. I have always appreciated it (well, almost always…), but it led to Curt being one of the few people who was willing to call Jay on key decisions. As a spectator in some of these, er, spirited conversations, it was amazing to me that two of the most knowledgeable, experienced responders I knew would bring such passion and dedication to their views on the best way to rehabilitate the birds in their care.

The IBRRC/IFAW team during the Prestige spill in Spain, 2002

As the OWCN matured, key IBRRC staff continued to play key response and readiness roles, with Flo, Dee, and Curt playing critical roles for the OWCN during training activities and the construction of the LA and SF Bay facilities. Even at that time, Curt was never satisfied with the “standard” way to provide training content – continually tweaking his methods of conveying information (including timeless stop-motion animation videos using plastic children’s toys), exploring new info from sources throughout the world, and pushing trainers to be as good as they can be (including asking questions of you during trainings that you had no idea what the answer was).

Curt asking an embarrassing question to Dr. Ziccardi at the OWCN Basic training in Arcata, 2001 (Extra points for pointing out the three future OWCN staff – other than Curt – in attendance)

After the Cosco Busan oil spill in 2007, the OWCN was officially given the mandate to lead capture activities during spills in California. In addition to hiring Recovery management staff, one of the first things we needed to do was to formally create bird capture protocols to begin to train new recovery personnel specifically for those roles (previously capture was part of the general basic trainings, but we weren’t technically the lead for the activity). Curt was the first and only person we considered to help develop this key document for us due to his experience, knowledge, and interest in the topic, and this (plus its associated training efforts) became a key part of the evolving readiness program for Field Operations.

Curt showing proper unoiled raptor handling techniques at an OWCN Recovery Training

Similarly, when a further expansion of the OWCN occurred in 2014-2015 due to inland expansion and the concept of separate Care and Field steams (each which was led by a Deputy Director) was envisioned, I was shocked when Curt expressed interest in the Care position. That initial inquiry was possibly one of the greatest compliments I can recall regarding the value of what we had created to date in the OWCN; the fact that Curt, an internationally-known expert in oiled wildlife response, was willing to relocate from Astoria, Oregon (a place he truly loves) to Davis to be part of our program was a true testament to his willingness to “put his money where his mouth was” to help take an excellent program and make it even more so.

Curt and the field team for the Refugio oil spill in 2015

From Day 1 as a UC Davis staff member, Curt pushed the envelope. He pushed himself and others to question WHY we did things and HOW we could do them better. He and Kyra completely re-imagined the training program to provide better tailored information at each of the different responder levels (and for those of you fortunate enough to take the Oiled Wildlife Specialist training on Cleaning, you know the depths of detail he embraced). He also took the lead role in championing and creating the concept of a field-based facility centered around Western Shelter structures and ancillary support trailers; lessons he learned well from other regions in which he worked. He was tireless in the pursuit of finding new potential members of the OWCN that could add to inland care preparedness. Last, he was a fierce advocate of integration of technology whenever possible to spill response activities, capturing the fine details of animal care that may have been previously not recorded or noted.

Curt giving instructions to participants in an inland full deployment oil spill drill in 2017

Curt is truly deserved of his official retirement from the OWCN after his active involvement since its inception – particularly after the last 5 years of focused efforts on Care activities. However, for those of you who know Curt, we also know he won’t be resting on a beach somewhere sunny but exploring new volunteer opportunities focused on his devotion to seabirds. He also has agreed to remain on the OWCN response team should we need him!

Curt in his happy place!

So, cheers to Curt for everything that you have done for the OWCN past and present!


So, you want to be a wildlife responder?

Photo: USCG

Now that I have your attention let’s talk a little about this exciting field of work and the different ways you can get involved. I’m often asked, “exactly what do you do when you are not responding to a spill”, “do you really use Dawn® dish soap to clean the animals?” and, “how would I go about getting into this field?” These are excellent questions. Let’s start with what our jobs entail, from the day to day activities to actual boots on the ground. You might be surprised to find out our day to day activities are a little different than you think. 

To me, being a member of the OWCN Management Team is equal parts emergency management and response, wildlife rehabilitation, veterinary medicine, education and outreach. I also can’t forget the importance of ongoing research. Although different organizations may use different terminology, I believe the OWCN’s 4 R’s fully capture all aspects of our work.

OWCN’s Four R’s

READINESS: Contrary to popular belief, Readiness is a large portion of our day to day work and involves a large amount of desk work. We are readily working to maintain and refine our equipment & supplies, protocols, and operating procedures. It is also important that we practice and test all of these aspects of our readiness. We accomplish this through creating various types of drills and exercises, which usually involve a mock oil spill scenario. Additionally, a large portion of our work is what we call “in reach,” or the management, training and engagement of our greater than 1,500 responders. The OWCN has a very extensive training program that includes webinars, virtual trainings, and in person trainings. Having pre-trained responders is key to a rapid response to wildlife in need. Our team also needs to maintain existing credentials and acquire training in areas such as the Incident Command System or ICS, safety, personnel management, veterinary medicine, and much more!

RESPONSE: This is what we prepare for! In reality (and fortunately!) Response is a smaller portion of our work. However, when the call comes in and we’re activated we often need to mobilize resources within two hours. Every response is different. Variables include geographical location, terrain, habitat, volume of animals, weather, species, amount and type of oil spilled, etc. As new information comes in, we are required to shift our strategies, which influences what resources are needed to provide the best achievable capture and care. A response can last from a few days to a month, or two, or three….

REACHING OUT: This is what I am doing today- Reaching out, educating the public, community and hopefully reaching some future wildlife conservation professionals. The OWCN is committed to sharing the importance of protecting the environment and all its inhabitants. We participate in various aspects of outreach, including K-12 education, open houses, conferences, at the academic level and to our industry and agency partners. Sharing our mission, or our “why” is an excellent way to interface with our next generation of responders and better collaborate with our colleagues.

RESEARCH: The science of capturing and caring for oiled wildlife is relatively young, so we are actively involved in supporting efforts to better understand the effects of oil on wildlife and refine our capture and animal care methods. We encourage projects through our Competitive Grants and Mentored Research Programs. We also conduct in-house studies. 

Now that we’ve talked about the numerous aspects of our work let’s dive into how you can get involved. In California, one of the best ways to get involved is to volunteer at one our 45 Member Organizations. Outside of California there are many organizations that also need volunteers and may provide different levels of training. Volunteering not only gives you an opportunity to gain experience in your area of interest, but it also supports the vital operations of that organization. Let’s not forget about building your resume and connecting with people in the field! If you’re in California and affiliated with one of our Member Organizations, you can also join our Network. Each Member Organization has an OWCN primary contact that can point you in the right direction and don’t worry, we have many exciting training opportunities to keep you busy! Internships and externships in your field of interest are also an excellent way to gain experience.

There are also opportunities available to learn about emergency management through the FEMA Emergency Management Institute. FEMA offers many courses in an online, independent study format. I recommend starting at IS-100, an Introduction to the Incident Command System! ICS is a vital part of our management structure and how we effectively operate during a response. This system is used by fire fighters, emergency responders and during natural disasters. It provides a standardized, hierarchical approach to the coordination, communication and reporting of multiple agencies during an emergency response. Responding to animals in need is not limited to oil spills or even to rehabilitating animals; it can be anything from helping move an injured animal off the side of a busy road, to assisting with animal rescue during a hurricane or wildfire. If you are passionate about the environment and animals, and have an interest in emergency management, I encourage you to consider one of the many avenues to help those in need of assistance. 


Danene Birtell, Readiness Coordinator, Care Operations

Making a Difference

Both National Make a Difference Day and National First Responder Day fall within this last week of October, so I wanted to highlight their importance by sharing some personal stories from Network members. Both of these days embrace similar concepts that form the foundation for the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). The OWCN and its 45 Member Organizations that make up this Network, work each and every day of the year to make a difference – not only in the work that they do for wildlife rehabilitation, wildlife research, and public outreach to teach about wildlife, but also in maintaining a constant state of readiness in the event that they are called upon to respond to oil-impacted wildlife.

Since many of you who are reading this are well-versed in the OWCN, who we are and what we do, I wanted to change things up in this blog and share some thoughts and experiences from folks within our Network who consistently embody these concepts within their organization. With that in mind, I reached out to the Network to see if anyone was up for the task. I am incredibly grateful to KT McNulty and Galand Chapman from Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue (SCWR) for sharing their stories with me about how they got involved rescuing wildlife, what they like most about making a difference in their organization, and what their most memorable experiences have been so far. So, without further ado, let’s hear about their adventures!

1) What inspired you two to get involved with SCWR and what do you like most about being part of this organization?

Once our kids became old enough to be independent, we found that we had some free time on our hands and decided to volunteer. We were attracted to wildlife rescue as we both have a deep appreciation for the wildlife and habitats that are surrounding us. We both grew up with a major appreciation of the outdoors, Galand in the desert and KT in the forest and coastal regions.

2) What is your most memorable experience as a responder on the wildlife rescue team?

KT: I responded to a sick coyote callout by myself. I got on scene to find an adult male laying under some blackberry bushes. He seemed very lethargic. As I approached, he did not attempt to flee, and lowered his eyes in submission. I was able to smoothly slip the catch pole around his neck, at which point he mustered the last of his energy and went berserk. He was so strong and put up an extremely challenging fight. The catch pole noose was secured around his neck so I knew I could not, under any circumstances, lose my grip and risk him running off with the pole attached. I was able to get a good grip on his haunches and get him pinned to the ground and then into the kennel safely. It turned out the coyote was malnourished and riddled with parasites. He was able to make a full recovery and was released.

Galand: My second rescue was a hawk that had been shot. This one was most memorable because even though it was my second rescue, the first one was easy. The hawk rescue was way more challenging and to actually catch the dang thing seemed like a miracle. Also, most memorable because it was able to make a recovery and we were able to release it and watch it fly away and soar high in the sky.


Photo Credit: Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue (SCWR)

KT and Galand: We were sent out for a sick bobcat cub. We were able to quickly locate the cub in a public park. He was laying down and lethargic. Once we approached him, he bolted into the underbrush along a creek bed. We scoured the area for almost an hour, and it began to get dark. We retrieved our flashlights from our truck and continued searching. We finally located the cub in the brush, but we were not able to reach him easily. We began to make attempts to get to where he was located, which was about 15 feet into the dense bush. The cub ran from under the brush and into the creek bed. Galand took one side of the creek and I took the other and we quickly followed it until Galand could get a net over him. The couple that reported the call to us was ecstatic as they had been watching the cub for weeks and just wanted to get him help.

3) What does being a first responder on the wildlife rescue team mean to you/why do you like helping wildlife?

  • It is very empowering to have the skillset and equipment to successfully rescue sick and injured wildlife. Most people have never even seen some of the animals we have had the pleasure of working with.
  • There is a huge sense of pride when you successfully and safely secure an animal to transport back to the wildlife hospital.
  • To be able to release a healthy animal back into the wild that you rescued is extremely rewarding.

A huge thank you to these two folks for sharing their story, and to all of you who are also first responders and/or make a difference for the wildlife you work with every day!



Field Ops with the Wildlife Disaster Network (WDN)

This blog is part 2 (out of 3) providing insight into the new network that we first blogged about here.  One aspect of the Wildlife Disaster Network (WDN) is doing reconnaissance and following leads on wildlife injured by the fires.  Being able to get to the animals sooner can allow for better chances of rehabilitation or at least end suffering for the severely injured. 

As we began our efforts with this new network, I started doing research and learning more about wildfires and the way they affect ecosystems. By having a good baseline of knowledge from my research I was able to make more sense of what we have encountered in going out to the burned areas to search for wildlife. Here is a brief summary of the salient aspects of my research:

Wildfires and the Ecosystem

  • Types of fires – there are three main kinds of fires:
    • Ground fires: smoldering, slow-moving fires burning organic material beneath the surface litter.
    • Surface fires: slow to moderate moving fires burning surface organic material such as low vegetation, leaves, dead branches.
    • Crown fires: The most intensely hot fires, burning the forest canopy of the dominant trees and shrubs.  Some canopy fires require underneath surface fires for combustion.  There can be “Passive crown fires” where surface fires intermittently ignite the canopy, “Active crown fires” which continuously burn through the canopy fueled by the underlying surface fire, and “Independent crown fires” which can occur under severe drought conditions and burn across the adjacent canopy. The Active and Independent crown fire types are the most intense and fast-moving and typically cause the most damage to the ecosystem because of its effect on the large tree growths, however a fire’s severity is a combination of both intensity and duration.
  • Fire changes to the ecosystem:  historically, forest fires have been considered a part of nature and an essential component to habitat renewal.  Burning of organic material clears debris and rapidly increases soil nutrients, clearing of shrubs and canopy allows for seeds of some larger trees to sprout with newly available light.  Fires allow the forest flora and fauna to essentially start anew.
  • Climate change and fires:  when fires increase in frequency and/or severity beyond what is natural, more lasting damage is done to the ecosystem.  Entire stands of trees must grow back along with the understory and the effect on animal species can be profound, particularly considering those that are endemic (only found in that area).  Continuing anthropogenic climate changes appear to lead towards continually increasing warming and drying of the western United States resulting in longer fire seasons with more severe wildfires.

LNU (Lake Napa Unit) Lightning Complex Fire (Knoxville) – September 18, 2020

A WDN crew (Drs. Jamie Peyton, Eric Johnson, Lorraine Barbosa and Duane Tom) did our first reconnaissance into an area that fires had burned about a month earlier.  What we found in terms of tracks, visually, and with trail cameras, is what would be expected: smaller terrestrial dwelling animals that seek shelter when threatened such as squirrels, other rodents, raccoons and reptiles were more affected by the fire because they took shelter and got engulfed by the passing fire.  Animals that tend to roam with larger home ranges, such as deer, coyote, bobcats, bears and birds have a much better chance of evading an approaching fire.  The only birds we saw during this reconnaissance trip were Acorn Woodpeckers and one Swainson’s Hawk, which are typically the species of birds found in recently burned forests (Woodpeckers come for the easy to get to bugs and raptors have an easier time with prey lacking places to hide).  We also noticed quail tracks near an area not extensively burned.

North Complex Fire (Lake Oroville) – September 19 

IMG_0168Our WDN crew did our second reconnaissance the next day in an area that had just recently been reopened for residents to return to their homes.  We were interested in getting an idea of how the North Complex fire compared to the LNU Complex, in particular getting in sooner from when the area had been burned.  Fortunately for these animals, there were a fair amount of areas that had been spared and we noted a significant number of wildlife such as Mule Deer (including fawns), Western Fence Lizards, and many more species of birds.

North Complex Fire (Berry Creek) – September 25 

The next weekend, our crew pursued a tip on a bear cub that had been seen in the area of Berry Creek.  This area was still a closed evacuation area and required a sheriff’s escort.  The burn was much more severe, with many areas of canopy foliage fully burned, deep ash covered some areas and stumps were still smoldering.  Tracks were sparse, mostly deer and at least one bear. Unfortunately, we were unable to find the cub.

North Complex Fire (Lumpkin) – October 11

On October 10th we got a call through the WDN hotline about another bear cub that was seen badly injured.  We were able to find this cub but unfortunately his burn injuries were too severe for rehabilitation; however, it was still successful in that he did not have to suffer a slow death.

LNU Lightning Complex Fire #2 (Knoxville) – October 18

This past Sunday, I had time to retrieve two of the trail cameras from the Knoxville site.  Now about 2 months since the fire initially burned through, the tracks were the same with deer, bobcat, coyote and bear coming through, however there were many more birds both in species and number.  Acorn Woodpeckers still dominated, but there were also Dark-eyed Junco’s, California Scrub-jays, California Quail, thrushes and other songbirds too far away to identify.  Still no smaller mammals or reptiles.

Thus far it has been a valuable learning experience in the types of animals we find under different fire conditions.  As we continue to gain support of wildfire first responders and get our information out to the public, we will be able to better help affected wildlife in a timelier manner and improve their chance of rehabilitation.

Fire season is still not over and with the duration and numbers of fires, WDN will be continuing to help these animals in need.  If you see any wildlife that has been injured in these wildfires please call the WDN hotline (800-942-6459). And if you’d like to support the Wildlife Disaster Network, please visit:

Duane (second from the left) with Lorraine (left), Jamie (right middle) and Eric (right)

Do Rehabilitated Oiled Birds Survive?

Did the title catch your eye? I hope so! This question has plagued the public, researchers, and rehabbers for a long time. Back when the animal response to oil spills started and wildlife were collected and washed, many animals did not survive the process. Those that did and were returned to the wild were usually never seen again. Back in those days, the ability to track animals after release was dependent on bands (for birds) or tags based on VHF radio waves if animals were even marked before release.

But we have come a long way since then, and we have gotten better and better at treating the effects of oiling on animals through years of research, (and let’s face it: trial and error). These days it is fair to say that we are good at what we do. Yes, there is always more to learn and the likelihood of survival of a particular animal that gets oiled depends on so many things, just a few of which might be species, time of year they get oiled, how long it takes before they are captured, what the petroleum product is, where on the body they get oiled, how extensive is the oiling, and the list goes on and on. So it really is a very tricky business and not black and white, but a lot of grey.

And really, when we are discussing oiled and rehabilitated animals, there really are three distinct questions: (1) do the animals survive the process of being washed and rehabilitated, (2) how long do they survive after they get released, and (3) do they return to “normal” after being oiled and rehabilitated? These days, not only have we become much better at helping animals after they get oiled, but technology has become much more sophisticated (smaller, better, cheaper, among other advancements) and as a result, it is much easier to track animals after we release them post-wash and rehabilitation. One of the things that we try to do for each spill is to look at each of them as an opportunity to learn more and to get better at how we care for animals.

So, when approximately 100,000 gallons of oil spilled at Refugio State Beach, near Santa Barbara, in May 2015, and many animals were oiled, the OWCN jumped into action. Our effort was not only focused on providing the best capture and care of the affected animals, but also to follow the active efforts we employ during every incident to try to learn as much as we could on how to improve our protocols, our response efforts, and our knowledge on how oil (and oiled wildlife rehabilitation) affects wildlife.

California brown pelican wash at the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center

One of the species of birds that was particularly affected by this spill was the Brown Pelican, 50 of which were captured. Of these 50, 46 pelicans survived and were released. Not only was their survival to release high (92%), but of the released pelicans, 12 adults were fitted with solar-powered GPS satellite tags. As part of this study of post-release survival, we also captured eight adult non-oiled pelicans to serve as controls.

After 6 months, 9 of the 12 original oiled and release pelicans were still alive (and 6 of 8 controls), and after one year, the tags from 2 of the oiled/rehabbed birds (and 2 of 8 controls) were still transmitting. Now it’s worth mentioning here that there is no perfect piece of technology that doesn’t have the capability of failing. So just because there were only 2 tags still transmitting after one year does not necessarily mean that the other 10 birds had perished. Tags not only can fail, but they also fall off, so even though they give us very valuable data, they don’t give us the entire picture.

This is where the old-fashioned method of going out and actively searching for the pelicans comes into play. Since the beginning of this study we were fortunate to have Deborah Jaques, AKA “Pelican Lady” (I might be the only one that secretly calls her that, truth be known), as one of our collaborators. Deborah knows more about pelicans than pretty much anyone I know, so working with her has been terrific.  One of the aspects of this study that Deborah has really helped us with is to “ground-truth” the satellite tag data by doing active boat and land surveys for the past 5 years. The main goal of her efforts was to help differentiate between pelicans that may have died versus those that survived but either lost their tag or the tag stopped transmitting.

Deborah and Curt looking for banded pelicans on a jetty in Alameda,CA on Oct. 15, 2020.

As part of this effort, Deborah, Curt (remember him?), and our very own Wendy Massey (Facilities Specialist) have spent the past few days in a boat (following COVID protection guidelines) off the central CA coast looking for banded pelicans. Oh yes – I forgot to mention that not only did we fit the oiled and control pelicans with satellite tags, we also banded them with bright green bands, which are easy to spot from a distance.  These tags also have large numbers, starting with the letter “Z”, so if you do happen to see one of these birds, please report them here or to the Bird Banding Lab. Thanks to the efforts of folks like Deborah, Bart Selby (a citizen scientist that has spotted a record number of these pelicans), and many others, we have been able to compile a list of all the Refugio pelican sightings. Since 2015, more than half of the 46 pelicans that were oiled and rehabilitated from the Refugio spill have been spotted, some of them multiple times!

Curt doing a last-minute boat inspection before heading out to look for pelicans.

So, getting back to the question, do oiled birds that are captured and rehabilitated survive? The answer to this question is much more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no”, because as you know, it depends on many many factors.  However, for many of the oiled animals the answer is a resounding “yes!”.  And not only is the answer a Yes with a capital Y, but we can add that not only do they survive, but they thrive, as the pelicans in this study have shown us and will continue to show us into the future.

To read past blogs on the pelican study, click on the links below:


From left to right: Nancy, Tim, Colleen, Mike, Winston, Chris, Kyra, Curt. Photo taken in 2015 during control pelican capture.

The Wildlife Disaster Network

These past few months have been a whirlwind in many ways, but especially in terms of a record shattering wildfire season here in California. Unfortunately, as shown in the graph below, we have seen five of the top six largest wildfires consume our landscapes this year alone. The aftermath has included loss of life, destruction of property, charred terrain and the unsettling recognition that our annual wildfire seasons are getting worse.

By California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection –, Public Domain,

While the reality may feel grim at times, I find encouragement in the hope inspiring moments that surprise us amidst the chaos. Often it is human kindness in the form of shelters, donations, and lending a helping hand to those who have become climate refugees. But another shining light has emerged this year in the form of a new program developed to directly assist wildlife affected by natural disasters, the Wildlife Disaster Network.

To learn more about this new Network, modeled after the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, check out the following articles:

The concept of mobilizing existing wildlife organizations to aid one another and wildlife during disasters has come up in the past, including during our 2018 OWCN Planning Summit where a Mutual Aid Working Group was formed to brainstorm effective mutual aid strategies amongst our OWCN Member Organizations. But more recently, efforts were further organized through the hard work of Dr. Jamie Peyton (UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine), Dr. Michael Ziccardi (UC Davis Wildlife Health Center), CDFW Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab. Plus an amazing amount of support from Gold Country Wildlife Rescue, who along with CDFW WIL, has hosted the care of many of the patients.

“Through OWCN, we’ve seen how effective a mobilized and coordinated response can be to help aid wildlife, and I’m excited to see how the Wildlife Disaster Network can bring that same level of care to wildlife affected by wildfire,” said Michael Ziccardi, director of OWCN and the One Health Institute at UC Davis

Upon receiving approval to respond to a few of the recent fires, our very own OWCN veterinarians, Dr. Lorraine Barbosa and Dr. Duane Tom, have been able to provide some direct assistance to this program. They have been utilized in both clinic roles caring for patients with foot pad burns, as well as out in the field providing reconnaissance in search of any additional affected wildlife. Patients have included coyotes, bobcats, bears, foxes and mountain lions.

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“It’s been amazing to see people coming together to help wildlife affected by the wildfires and incredible to see how well they can heal when they have this dedicated effort.” – Dr. Lorraine Barbosa

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“This is the first concerted effort towards helping California’s wildlife affected by wildfires in a timely manner that should allow them to be rescued and treated earlier on, lessening suffering and improving their chances for rehabilitation.” – Dr. Duane Tom

Even though the program is in its early stages, the work has been very exciting and impactful. The hope is as the program expands, additional partners will join the efforts, and there may even be volunteer opportunities in the future.

Lastly, we want to send a huge Thank You to all the California wildlife rehabilitation groups who have received and assisted in transferring wildfire patients to care. And last but not least, a definitive shout out to UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT, and their student chapter, sVERT), who have long been providing emergency response during wildfires, but with a specific focus on domestic animals and livestock aid.

Scott Buhl
Readiness Coordinator – Field Operations

New OWCN Senior Manager!

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Lorraine Barbosa as our new OWCN Senior Manager of Care Operations! Lorraine will start her new position today (1 Oct) and have one month of transition time with Curt before he officially retires from UCD service (more on that in a later post…).

Version 2Lorraine joined the OWCN in May 2018 as our Facility Veterinarian. As we reported previously, she first entered the wildlife field as a research assistant at the Long Marine Lab while completing a bachelor’s degree in marine biology at UC Santa Cruz, then obtained her veterinary degree and a Master’s of Preventive Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis. She completed both a small animal internship at PetCare and a marine mammal medicine and pathology internship at The Marine Mammal Center. As a veterinarian at California Wildlife Center, she provided clinical, surgical, and rehabilitative care for a variety of avian, terrestrial, and marine mammal species, and has enjoyed collaborating on several marine mammal field research projects in Central and South America. In 2017, she became certified as a Diplomate of the American College of Preventive Veterinary Medicine.

We look forward to her enthusiasm and cheerful dedication to wildlife in her new role!



The biennial OWCN Planning Summit is happening virtually in just one week! We are looking forward to having representatives from our Member Organizations join us for a day of collaboration and brainstorming on a variety of topics. We will share the results of the Summit in a future blog post, but for today I would like to delve into one Summit topic in particular: Technology & Innovation.

With so many advancements in modern technology, we are moving into an exciting and overwhelming territory. Utilizing new technologies such as the Wildlife Recovery iPhone App, QR code scanners, the Better Impact volunteer management database, and OWRMD has vastly expanded our capabilities. But are there additional technologies that we can take advantage of to make us more successful in our mission? Biothermal PIT tags? Access badge security at the Primary Care Facility? Thermal imaging for wildlife detection in the field? Our hope for the Technology & Innovation working group is that we will explore some ideas for products (custom-built or store-bought) that could revolutionize an aspect of care or field response. We are in search of timesavers and simplifiers, gadgets and gizmos.

Registration for the Summit is closed, but we would like to give everyone an opportunity to share their ideas for tech products that can be applied to oiled wildlife response–ideas that can be discussed and possibly added to the work plan developed during the Summit. Has your rehabilitation center or research team identified a product that fits this description, but hasn’t had time (or the resources) to thoroughly investigate and apply the idea yet? We would love to hear from you! You don’t need to have it all figured out at this point–we welcome any level of detail. If you would like to share with us, please follow this link to describe your idea. We may reach out to you if we have follow up questions, but it is up to you if you would like to stay involved in the project after that.

Here is an example of a recent advancement the OWCN has made in technology:

Printable QR Code leg bands for large avian species:

  • These bands are printed directly from OWRMD with the patient’s individual log # and QR code
  • The QR code can be scanned for rapid record retrieval when the animal is handled for treatments or moved to a new enclosure in the facility
  • The QR leg band went through several iterations before we landed on the Zebra waterproof wristband printer (designed for water parks!). The wristbands are wide, so we designed them be cut down the center and used as two leg bands (one for now and one for a backup)
  • QR codes, scanners, and water park wristband printers were NOT designed for oiled wildlife response; HOWEVER with some ingenuity–we now have a great new system that improves one aspect of wildlife care!
I recruited one of my dog’s stuffed animals to model our QR code leg band. Working from home has limited my access to California native species models…

What ideas can you come up with?

Temperature sensors so that we can remotely track conditions from animal transport or the rehab facility on an app?

A portable laser light show to deter nocturnal animals from approaching the hot zone in the field?

The possibilities are endless! Not every idea will end up working for our purposes, but we won’t know for sure without more investigating. The Technology & Innovation working group will select a few ideas to try out. Your idea could end up saving the day during the next oiled wildlife response. Here is that link again so that you can share your ideas.

We can’t wait to see what you come up with!


Some frogs can evert their stomachs…and other fun frog facts

My main interaction with frogs before I became a veterinarian was rescuing them from my grandfather’s pool as a child. As a vet, I haven’t gotten the chance to care for very many frogs, but whenever I’ve had one as a patient I’ve always learned something new.

Currently our team is working on producing Standard Operating Procedures for amphibians. While researching these creatures so that we can be prepared for a spill affecting any such species, I have come across some pretty interesting facts!

1. Frogs don’t drink water! Instead, they absorb it through their skin. Frogs have permeable skin, which means that water can pass through it. This is important for a number of reasons. One is that this permeability means that they can absorb not only water, but other liquids, including toxins from oil, through their skin. Another is that they need to be close to a source of water nearly constantly so that they do not become dehydrated. And medically, we can help correct dehydration and electrolyte losses just by putting them in a type of water bath and letting them absorb it. If they are overhydrated, we can use a different type of water bath and have them lose that excess fluid!

2. Frogs molt! The outermost layer of skin, also called the superficial stratum corneum, is 1-2 cells thick. This layer is molted at regular intervals (about once a week) and is eagerly consumed by most amphibians. This is important information when contemplating the effects of oil on frogs. We do not yet know how oil absorbs into the skin of frogs, nor what effect this frequent shedding of their skin could have.

3. Frogs can jump crazy high! Many frogs can jump 20 times their own body length, and some frogs can jump even higher and farther! During a spill response, all of our patients experience a certain amount of stress, and small enclosures that don’t allow them to move naturally can add to this. Knowledge of species behavior differences can help us provide a proper housing environment to alleviate stress as much as possible.

4. Frogs can eat huge prey! Not only will some frogs swallow prey that look almost the same size as them, but they don’t chew, so they swallow it whole. To help getting the food down, the frog will suck its eyes into its head and use them to push the food down from the back of the roof of their mouth.

5. Frogs can’t vomit! But some can evert their entire stomach, clean it off with their hands, and then swallow it again to get it back into proper positioning. This is important to know because a prolapsed (or extruded) stomach/intestines in most other species is very abnormal and might even serve as an indication for euthanasia. It is also important to know, however, that not all species of amphibians can perform this trick and that this condition can also be associated with hypocalcemia (low calcium), hypoglycemia (low glucose), or insecticide intoxication. Knowing your species is of utmost importance!

Frog everting its stomach

I’m sure there is a ton more to learn, but in the meantime, there you have it. More to come once the official SOP is released!