As of today there have still only been the two birds (one northern gannet and a brown pelican) that have been brought into the Fort Jackson facility near Venice, Louisiana. No reports of marine mammals or turtle strandings that are inexplicably linked to the spill (there have been a few other unrelated cases) have come across the all encompassing internet as of this afternoon.
This oil spill is very uncommon in many ways, but the one most relevant to the wildlife response is that the 60+ mile wide mass of crude oil is slowly being pushed around out there at the mercy of the tides and weather. It doesn’t have a direct course to shore. At this point, the response is a bit like plate spinning. Yes, I am indeed talking about the circus act where a person sets a plate spinning, balanced atop a pole. We are the performer, the oil layer is the plate, and the offshore waters of the Gulf are acting as the pole. As the oil dangerously wibbles and wobbles back and forth out at sea, nearly crashing into land and breaking into a million pieces, we stand by, making any effort possible to keep it atop the pole until we figure out how best to remove it without it shattering. The continuing leak is the part in the act where the performer keeps adding more plates on more poles and by the end is frantically running around in an effort to keep them all spinning. We’re just waiting for the plate(s) to come crashing down at this point.
Bad weather had been hampering search efforts over the past few days but things are looking up today. The sun came out and search and capture teams from the IBRRC (International Bird Rescue Research Center) were “activated.” That is a fancy way of saying that they were given permission by the Coast Guard and the US Fish & Wildlife Service to go out and look for birds. The barrier islands have still been off limits to everyone but USFWS but they are out there scouring the area for oiled animals.
The organizational effort on the wildlife side has been incredible. There are now three Oiled Bird Rescue Centers strategically placed around the Gulf. There is the Fort Jackson facility along with one in Theodore, Mississippi and the third in Pensacola, Florida. I’m hoping to end up in one of these locations as soon as they start calling for out of state qualified volunteers. I’m in the process of doing a refresher of my Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) certification so I will be bumped up the call list. The acronym sounds distinctly like a Burger King marketing campaign. Ew. I’m a little more inclined to muck around in hazardous waste than a “burger” of that caliber. Don’t get me wrong. I do love a tasty burger but I like mine to contain human consumption grade meat at the very least. I digress, the donation response has completely overwhelmed me. The coffers have been filled to overflowing and are awaiting use. I’m putting together a readiness bag with rubber boots, clothes, computer, camera, notebook, first aid kit, sunscreen, bug repellent, coffee, and trail mix (to name a few key items) so I will be on the ready! Stay tuned.