Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, March 26 , 2019, 1:38 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

Rehabilitated Brown Pelicans Released Back Into the Wild After Refugio Oil Spill

Data so far show that 179 birds had been reported dead and 56 had been recovered alive

Wildlife workers release 10 brown pelicans on Friday at Goleta Beach. The birds had been oiled by the oil spill off Refugio State Beach and had been captured May 22-29.
Wildlife workers release 10 brown pelicans on Friday at Goleta Beach. The birds had been oiled by the oil spill off Refugio State Beach and had been captured May 22-29. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Two nondescript U-Haul conversion vans carefully pulled into the Goleta Beach parking lot on Friday, and the casual bystander wouldn't have been able to tell that each van carried precious cargo inside.

Ten brown pelicans sat in crates inside the vans that had driven through Friday traffic on Highway 101 from San Pedro just minutes before, and were to be the first seabirds affected by the Refugio oil spill to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

A line of reporters waited for workers from the UC-Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife to unload the crates and set each one just feet from where the tide was coming in.

As they opened the doors, some birds took to their freedom right away, but others took their time to remember the ocean for a few moments before taking flight and coming to rest on the water's surface a few hundred yards offshore.

It was a welcome sight for those gathered Friday, considering the animal casualties that are likely to have resulted from the Refugio oil spill, which erupted May 19 and sent more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil into pristine coastal waters.

As of Thursday, 179 birds had been reported dead and 56 had been recovered alive, according to numbers from the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

A footnote to that data stated that the cause of the deaths will not be known until a detailed examination of the bodies can be done.

"The number of animal deaths caused by the spill will not be known until examinations are complete," according to a footnote at RefugioResponse.com.

On Friday, 10 of the 42 oiled brown pelicans that were captured and taken in for rehabilitation were released back into the wild. Those birds had been recovering at the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center after being captured from May 22 to 29.

Mike Ziccardi, director of UC-Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network, said that each of the birds had checked out medically and behaviorally, and only then had the birds been cleared for release.

The UC-Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife have also placed satellite tracking devices on 12 brown pelicans affected by the spill.

The tracking devices, which sit like tiny backpacks on the birds and are solar powered, will be used to see whether the birds survive and return to normal behaviors after being oiled, officials said.

The devices use antennas to track GPS data and transport it to an online portal that logs different locations during daylight hours.

They'll be tracked for about two years to see if they return to breeding colonies next year.

The method has been used before, and officials from Fish & Wildlife said they are working with other groups who had successfully tagged and tracked close to 100 brown pelicans after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

Email
I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.