Wildlife group prepares to help injured animals in oil spill - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Wildlife group prepares to help injured animals in oil spill


By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - "Even with these little tiny teeth, he can clamp down, and it can be painful," Alison Sharpe said, as she held a baby alligator.

The little guy was seized from a Harrison County home last year. It was supposed to be released sometime this spring, but now, there's a lot of uncertainty.

"With the possibility of oil coming into our bayous and stuff, we'll probably hang on to him and see what happens," Sharpe said.

Sharpe is the director of the Wildlife Care and Rescue Center in Jackson County. Her organization has rescued and rehabilitated numerous animals since 1994, including wildlife that had been injured in oil spills.

Now, Sharpe and 15 of her volunteers are preparing to undergo specialized training to help clean and care for animals that may be harmed by the massive oil slick in the Gulf.

"It was like panic. There was despair; there was frustration, just a number of different emotions that run through your mind when something like this happens," said Sharpe. "We have a lot of our marsh birds that have nests inside the marshlands. They are nesting.  They're on eggs, they have babies, and it's going to be very devastating."

Sharpe said she has enough space to house up to 100 animals on a short-term basis. She expressed concern over the oil's impact on creatures that are either endangered or threatened. For instance, the Brown Pelicans were recently removed from the Endangered Species List.

"They're in their nesting season right now, and is that going to cause a lot of these animals to also be put back in the Endangered Species List and others that have never been there. So it is a big concern," Sharpe said.

Sharpe said the animals must be saved and returned to the wild quickly, because they can face extreme stress in captivity.

"They try to clean their own feathers, so they're ingesting this oil into their system. That, in turn, causes even more problems that it does just being on their feathers," Sharpe said. "So it's important with the influx of these animals to get them in, get them taken care of, get them cleaned, get them back healthy and get them out there where they belong."

Sharpe and her volunteers are also ready to respond, if they are needed at clean-up sites in other states.

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