Just wanted to finally post an update on how things are going at the rehabilitation facility. Yesterday we decided to give some of the most heavily oiled birds a “quick wash”. Many people don’t realize that we typically stabilize birds for a couple of days before cleaning the oil off. Oiled animals are usually dehydrated and starving when they are captured because the oil disrupts their feathers and fur. These normally trap air against the body which insulates them from the cold ocean water. Without that insulation they come to shore where they can’t eat or drink.
Over the first few days of care we focus on feeding and rehydrating the animals so they can withstand the stress of cleaning. But sometimes we have to balance the need to be stabilized with the need to get the oil off them quickly. In this spill we’re seeing skin irritation and chemical burns caused by the oil being in direct contact with birds’ skin. So yesterday we “quick washed” several of the most heavily oiled birds. This doesn’t get them completely clean because we don’t think they can handle the stress of a prolonged wash, but it does decrease the amount of oil on their skin. Hopefully this prevents additional damage.
It’s always difficult to say what is typical for any oiled wildlife response with a definitive answer. That’s because there are so many variables that affect the outcome of whether an animal is released. Managing an oil spill is a constantly changing puzzle, and we have to adapt daily to changing circumstances.