Mystery Event in the East Bay

The East Bay has been busy the last week or so with a “mystery goo” event.  Over 300 birds have been brought in and are being cared for by the team at International Bird Rescue.

"Melanitta perspicillata" by Alan D. Wilson - NaturesPicsOnline. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Melanitta_perspicillata.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Melanitta_perspicillata.jpg

Surf scoters have been heavily affected in this event. Photo credit: “Melanitta perspicillata” by Alan D. Wilson – NaturesPicsOnline. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Melanitta_perspicillata.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Melanitta_perspicillata.jpg

While petroleum has been ruled out, the fact that the substance has not been identified (and that it isn’t a petroleum product) has been the source of frustration for many of the public following this event.  Most see animals in distress and want to know why more is not being done by the state.  Both the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) and the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) are doing what we can within the scope of our work to help out.  In many ways this event mimics an oil spill event, and we can use this event as a training opportunity of sorts.  For example, I was lucky enough to spend several days last week (along with the rest of the OWCN staff) working with International Bird Rescue. I was able to spend time with their volunteer coordinator learning new things, and putting into practice many things that I have spent the last few years training for.  This was a great way for me to help out while gaining valuable experience coordinating volunteers. During my time there I also saw OSPR staff doing everything they could to help out, even transporting contaminated animals from the field to the center.

Areas in the the San Francisco Bay.  Screenshot courtesy of Google Maps.

Areas in the the San Francisco Bay. Screenshot courtesy of Google Maps.

Our limitations come from the fact that our program was established specifically to address oil spills in the state. The funds that support our program come from fees paid by oil companies when they transport oil into the state, and are marked for use in preparing for and responding to oil spills. With this mystery goo event, we have no known responsible party and the product is not oil, therefore it would not be right to spend money collected and set aside to address oil spills on a non-petroleum response. OSPR, which is part of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, is in a similar situation.

The silver lining on a horrible situation is blindingly visible during this event, in the form of generous support.  There has been an outpouring of support from not only OWCN and OSPR workers, but also from East Bay Regional Parks, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and wildlife rehabilitation organizations around the state, as well as the public.

Horned Grebes have also been affected during this event.  Photo Credit: user:Calibas - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Horned_Grebe.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Horned_Grebe.jpg

Horned Grebes have also been affected during this event. Photo Credit: user:Calibas – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Horned_Grebe.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Horned_Grebe.jpg

In fact, the network that has been designed for oil spill response, is being utilized for this event, with many network rehabilitation organizations generously donating the time of their staff and volunteers, sending people to assist International Bird Rescue every day in the care and cleaning of these animals.  Dedicated individuals are stepping in to offer financial support to keep operations going. All of this effort and hard work really is a testament to how amazing the people of the Bay Area are, in their willingness to step up and help affected wildlife.

The real kudos here go to International Bird Rescue for the huge effort they have put into taking care of these contaminated seabirds, and we are proud to have them as partners in our network.  Please click here to visit International Bird Rescue’s website and get up to date information on this event.

-Becky

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