UC Davis, network of state groups rush to help wildlife at Southern California oil spill

California

DAVIS, Calif. (KTXL) — Several Northern California organizations are working together to respond to the massive oil spill in Southern California.

Oil spills like the one in Huntington Beach can have far-reaching impacts on wildlife, especially birds. 

“By coming ashore, they can’t escape predators, they can’t eat, and so what ends up happening is they get emaciated, they get dehydrated. And unless they’re collected, they can die very quickly,” said Michael Ziccardi, with UC Davis Veterinary Medicine’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network

OWCN manages the state’s oil spill response, and Ziccardi said they have a team on the ground helping current animal rescue efforts.

“We have teams that are actually actively doing search and collection on the beach areas, so either on foot or using UTVs to be able to search a broad expanse,” Ziccardi said. “We do have teams in smaller boats covering the water areas, either for less accessible areas or looking for animals actually out in the water.” 

He said only four live birds have been collected so far. 

“What we’re hoping is that that means that there are few animals out there, but we’re still actively searching,” Ziccardi said. 

Russ Curtis is with the International Bird Rescue, which has 50 years of experience in responding to oil spills. 

“Every day and every hour is so critical to the care of an oiled wildlife that comes in,” Curtis said. “We’re hopeful that the oil will be cleaned up quickly. But there’s still just a lot of animals in that area, and we’re hopeful that we can get to them as soon as they need care.”

Through statewide collaboration, UC Davis and its network — which boast 44 groups across the state — aim to rescue and protect as many animals as they can. 

“Just the level of preparedness that we have here in the state is absolutely unparalleled to anywhere else in the world,” Ziccardi said. 

Rescue groups said marine life is also a concern, but it may take a while to see the full impact of the oil spill. 

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