A few weeks ago Scott Buhl and I headed over to Sacramento to man a booth at CALPERS Take Our Kids to Work Day. We had a lot of fun getting to know 100+ kids ranging in age from 4 to 14. Kids and adults alike loved to touch the otter pelts we brought. Because our audience was wowed by the amazing softness of otter fur, we were also able to share fun facts such as: Otter’s have the most dense hair coat in the world with up to one million hairs per square inch!
In addition to otters, we also encouraged kids to experiment with chicken feathers to see how contaminants such as oil destroy a feather’s ability to resist water. Once oiled, water can penetrate through a bird’s feathers (or otter’s fur). This causes birds to lose the ability to thermoregulate (keep warm) and reduces their ability to float. Both can result in birds or otters starting to drown. This is why even though normal seabirds and sea otters rarely leave the water, we find them beached during oil spills. It is a sign of the severe damage oil does to animals.
Finally, we were able to share how the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) can make a positive difference by rescuing and rehabilitating oiled animals during spills. Our mission is to provide the best achievable capture and care of oiled wildlife. Because of the support of the people and the State of California; OWCN, our partner wildlife rehabilitation organizations and affiliated agencies are given the chance to make a terrible situation a little better for wildlife.
Reaching Out (i.e. education and outreach to the public) is one of OWCN’s most important goals. While the OWCN, our Member Organizations and Affiliated Agencies can rescue and rehabilitate wildlife, it is the citizens of the state of California that have the real power. Once people learn about the effects of oil on wildlife and their own health, they are usually moved to try make a difference. Actions can include appropriate disposal of waste so that it does not enter storm drains, support of legislation that protects the environment, or volunteering to help during oil spills or other environmental catastrophes. We can make the biggest difference when we are aware of what is happening and use this knowledge to work together to make things better.