The Oiled Wildlife Recovery Program at the OWCN

For many of us, seeing pictures of oiled and debilitated wildlife in the newspapers, on TV, and on the internet triggers some powerful emotions. I remember watching the Deepwater Horizon oil spill unfold in 2010, before I joined the OWCN. I wanted to help, but I felt powerless to make a difference. Now, as Field Operations Coordinator for the OWCN, I feel lucky that when there is an oil spill, I can actually do something to get affected animals the care they need.

Oiled Brown Pelican during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, 2010.

Oiled Brown Pelican during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, 2010.

I have no doubt that this recent Mystery Goo event in the East Bay has stirred up similar feelings in many – but the good news is that it is easy to become involved and make a big difference when something like this occurs. Becoming a volunteer at a rehabilitation organization allows you to help out when needed, on a daily basis, and in larger events such as during this Mystery Goo event. The past few weeks, International Bird Rescue (one of our member organizations) has needed many volunteers in order to care for so many birds.

If you volunteer your time with one of our 34 member organizations (for a list of all our member organizations, please click here) you’ll also be eligible to take advantage of OWCN trainings and potentially help out during an oil spill. So whether you want to capture struggling wildlife out in the field, transport them to the care facility, help provide care for them at the facility, prepare food or put pens together, the first step is to identify an organization that you wish to volunteer with, and contact them for instructions on how to get started.

After that, there are different training requirements depending on how you would like to help out during an oil spill. For example, if you want to help out in the field capturing oiled wildlife, you need to have a minimum of 24-hr Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training. In addition, you will need to take several OWCN webinars as well as the Wildlife Recovery level 2 hands-on workshop.

Mike Ziccardi, director of the OWCN, and several students during a recent Wildlife Recovery Level 2 training in Arcata, CA.

Mike Ziccardi, director of the OWCN, and several students during a recent Wildlife Recovery Level 2 training in Arcata, CA.

The Wildlife Recovery program at the OWCN began in 2008 (after the Cosco Busan oil spill), when “capture” was added to our mandate of “best achievable capture and care of oil-affected wildlife.” Since then the program has continued to expand, with active and ongoing recruitment and training of new personnel. Each year we work with the Industrial Hygienists from the Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response to provide 24-hr HAZWOPER trainings all across the state. Our advanced workshops include All-Terrain Vehicle certification, boat safety classes, and specialized capture techniques. As a result, we now have over 350 fully-trained people throughout CA, including over 100 in the Bay area alone. But don’t let that deter you from getting involved – with our mandate recently expanding to include all of California (not just the marine portion), we are looking forward to further expanding the Wildlife Recovery program as well.

So if you haven’t done so already, think about contacting one of the many rehabilitation organizations in your area to help out during non-spill times, and during spill times. Consider joining us in our mission to always provide the very “best achievable capture and care of oil-affected wildlife.” We’d love to have you.

Kyra.

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