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Wildlife Rescuers in Gulf Overwhelmed–By Volunteers, Not Patients

San Francisco Oil Spill - Partially Oiled Gull
Oiled gull in CA in 2007 by Ingrid Taylar. Not many oiled birds seen yet in the gulf.

So far only a single bird, a Northern Gannett, has shown up oiled from the massive Deepwater Horizon spill. Wildlife rescuers and nonetheless overwhelmed–by all the untrained human volunteers.

As the potential for the spill gets bigger, the big wildlife groups are contemplating holding training classes to equip the would-be volunteers, says Kai Williams, executive director of the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council.

Right now several groups are taking in information from potential volunteers.  The National Wildlife Federation is directing people to sign up with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

 “If you have the ability to restain an animal, that’s going to be huge, just the basic ability to hold an animal,” says Williams. “They’re getting a lot of untrained people, not wildlife rehabilitators, people who have never picked up a bird.”

What makes planning the response so hard is no one knows how big this still-developing catastrophe is going to be or when and where a rush of injured animals will show up. Some contemplate that the Gulf Stream could wrap it around Florida. Some worry the spill could end up bigger than Valdez. Williams notes that fewer birds live in Valdez, but there are also turtles and marine mammals to worry about.

The northern gannet is being bathed, fed electrolytes and pepto bismal, but rough weather this weekend prevented picking up more patients. A caretaker told the AP that the bird came in brown, but should be white at its current age.

Nationally, three groups are known for their training in helping animals that have gotten coated in oil.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-oLjH4iPTE&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0xe1600f&color2=0xfebd01&border=1] Where to Go to See Wildlife
Where to Go See Wildlife Down South

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