On Tuesday July 5th, our Leadership Team was in communication with Lisa Smith, Executive Director of Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, Inc., regarding the report of an oil spill that they were responding to potentially affecting a large number of Canada geese. And on Thursday morning, our Leadership Team said we had been approved to provide assistance. I flew out around noon and arrived a little after 1am.
My first day at Tri-State was mostly preparation, as the birds were in the process of being recovered from a location several hours away. This also allowed me some time to get a tour from Lisa of their incredible facility.
In the early evening the birds arrived by horse trailer, divided up into the separate stalls on board. One good thing about habituated wildlife is that they are easier to catch and manipulate into doing what you want. Also, being a flock species, if you can get one of them to do what you want, the others will usually follow (watch the video below to see what I mean)! Luckily, Callan Hahn of Wildlife Transportation Facilitators, was available and happily made the emergency trip to safely bring the birds to Tri-State for treatment and care.
The product was dielectric oil, which is used for transformer and other electrical device insulation. Fortunately, this product has a low toxicity. Its Safety Data Sheet (SDS) labels it as…”irritating to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. Oral toxicity is low…”
Our Intake & Processing began Friday evening when the birds arrived and continued through around noon on Sunday. On Saturday, three medical teams working all day admitted an astounding 96 birds! Because the product wasn’t very caustic, the effects that we saw were predominantly feather contamination, some eye irritation along with mild skin irritation and patchy feather loss where the birds may have been excessively preening. Still, there were a lot of birds needing to be cleaned!
Pens were set up in the Pre-Wash Care area dividing the birds up by about a dozen in each. Having so many birds coming in at the same time, they had to improvise their set-up and process but Mandy Fischer, their Oil Programs Director, impressively managed the situation and had everything moving smoothly along.
For the entire response, Tri-State cared for 201 Canada geese. The Tri-State Oiled Wildlife Response Team consists of only 4 full time staff members, which meant organizing dozens of additional paraprofessionals and skilled Tri-State volunteers, brought in to assist in the timely care of so many birds. It was a short response for me, but I was glad to help however I could and it was a great opportunity to meet and work with all the wonderful people at Tri-State including Dr. Erica Miller as well as their new Wildlife Veterinarian, Jill Wallace. I also had the pleasure to work with Marie Travers and January Bill, contracted through Focus Wildlife, who are also associated with one of our own Member Organizations, Bird Ally X! And Tracy Anderson, now a staff member at Focus Wildlife, who had also previously run the Save Our Shearwaters program back on Kaua’i!
Thanks for reading!