For my initial blog post (yes I admit being in absentia on this score), I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about a component of oil spill response that to some degree hangs out in the background of OWCN, but can be especially important in certain types of spills. It is the part of potential response involving “hazing and deterrents”, or as I like to call it – “Preventive Medicine” for wildlife in oil spills.
As the Hazing Coordinator, I lead the hazing and deterrence effort within OWCN. Because of our expansion to include inland spills, the types of wildlife that we are now tasked with trying to prevent becoming affected includes everything from birds to pinnipeds, amphibians to bears. In order to assure readiness to accomplish this task, we have expanded our core hazing team in both numbers and locations in the state, and have expanded the range and amount of equipment that is prepositioned for this task. We have incorporated a number of wildlife biologists working for The Institute for Wildlife Studies into this core team due to their extensive experience with a wide variety of species, both birds and terrestrial mammals. I am also working within the Field Operations group with Scott and Kyra to more closely integrate hazing and recovery activities to better utilize personnel in the areas most needed during a spill. We are regularly consulting other individuals who do hazing and deterrence to get ideas, and are working to widen the group of tools available to us.
Over the past several years we have conducted a number of trainings of volunteers, contractors, and staff in hazing techniques and tools, resulting in a dozen core hazing team members that are trained to lead field teams, and many volunteers that are trained to assist in a hazing effort. Besides teaching how to properly utilize the tools we have available, we also test or research the wide array of behavioral responses to hazing that various species might have.
In association with keeping up with the latest techniques in wildlife hazing and deterrence, last month I attended the Vertebrate Pest Conference in Newport Beach to learn what techniques people doing non-lethal human-wildlife conflict management are using that could apply to oil spills. Some of the techniques described in talks at the conference could be especially important for deterring terrestrial mammal entrance into spill zones, so they were of great interest. I also presented a talk about OWCN’s mission and work, not only hazing but also recovery and treatment. This was done with the goal of letting some of the other professionals there know that we could be resource for them in the area of research and collaboration, and to improve overall awareness of the important work that OWCN-affiliated organizations do throughout the state.
Finally, we are expanding our interactions with the UC Research and Extension Station network, whose personnel such as Terry Salmon and Paul Gorenzel really started the initial hazing team work with OSPR, and developed key protocols and references we use today (the manual they created can be downloaded here).
Especially on the terrestrial mammal side, personnel from the Extension service often have a lot of expertise with deterrence and hazing, and they have allowed us to utilize several of their facilities for equipment storage. We are quite appreciative of their cooperation and intend to continue to develop the relationship to allow us to give “best achievable hazing and deterrence” so that ideally, care can be a less necessary part of the equation.