Pelican oiling in Santa Barbara

Many of our readers may have heard that this week several oiled pelicans were reported from the Santa Barbara area.  The report got national attention, so I thought I would tell you what we know.  A total of four suspected oiled pelicans were observed in the area, and two were captured.  One of these was near Elwood Beach, and the other was near the SB Pier.  The remaining two birds were still flighted and were not captured.  The two oiled pelicans were rescued and brought to our member organization Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, where they were stabilized and transported to the OWCN facility in San Pedro.  Folks from our member organization International Bird Rescue will wash and care for the birds there.  I spoke to someone at SBWCN this morning, and she said that both pelicans were doing well. Despite what one of the media reports said, we haven’t had any reports of dead birds, and the two birds in care are alive and appear well despite the oiling.

Both the US Coast Guard and OSPR personnel surveyed the area and beaches (on foot and from the air), and no oil was seen either on the beaches or in the form of slicks or sheen on the water.  The Coast Guard also contacted all the oil rigs in the area, all of which reported that they were operating normally and had no leaks.  That is great news and hopefully it means that there was no anthropogenic oil spill.  The pelicans likely were oiled from a natural seep, a common occurrence in the Santa Barbara area.  Fortunately, OSPR has a mechanism to investigate this further, so we don’t have to wonder.  Oil samples from the pelicans’ feathers were taken yesterday and are being sent to OSPR’s Petroleum Chemistry Lab in Rancho Cordova.  This lab uses state-of-the-art technology to identify the oil and match it to a known source.  They have samples of the typical natural seeps along the California coast, so if these pelicans were oiled from a natural seep, we’ll know it by sometime next week.

I also want to emphasize that the OWCN hotline is available 24 hours a day to take reports of oiled wildlife.  Call 877 823 6926 (877 UCD OWCN) to report sightings of oiled wildlife in California.

Many thanks to the US Coast Guard for their help with investigating this potential spill!


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