Wildlife rehab team is helping 'oil covered' birds - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Wildlife rehab team is helping 'oil covered' birds

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

THEODORE, AL (WLOX) - A leased warehouse in Theodore, Alabama has been converted into a wildlife rehab facility. That's where a team of experts is prepared to help save any oil-covered birds rescued from the gulf waters or shore line.

Although they've received just a few oily birds so far, they're ready to respond to increasing numbers of injured animals.

Julie Skoglund prepares to feed hungry pelicans on the mend. They're in recovery cages at the Wildlife Rehab Center.

Birds that arrive covered in oil must first be carefully cleaned, an exacting process that requires expert care and multiple steps.

"The wash process is a really intense process. It's really stressful for the birds. So we used our most experienced people to expedite that happening as quickly as possible. And also to make sure to get all the oil off," Skoglund explains.

"One of the biggest challenges working with oiled birds is making sure they're able to get waterproofed after their wash. So, it's an entire process from stabilization to wash to post wash stabilization where you're helping them get waterproofed again."

Along with pelicans in one large rehab cage, there's a royal tern in the recovery pen next door.

The birds are understandably quite skittish. Whether brought here with oil covered feathers or even other injuries, their stress levels are elevated.

"Getting those birds to us as quickly as possible so they're not as compromised when they come into care, that's one key thing. And then looking at secondary injuries. If they're coming in with no injuries at all, they have a really great chance of making a full recovery," she said.

The Wildlife Center in Theodore is one of four such facilities along the Gulf Coast.  And even though they're helping out just a few birds right now, they are gearing up to handle what could be a dramatic increase in numbers.

"They're planning for the worst and hoping for the best. They're top notch professionals and they're good at their job. Again, we don't recommend anyone trying this at home. You could do more harm to yourself and do more harm to the animals as well," said Tom MacKenzie with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The experts know best about providing that care.

"And we put it back in the wild in the best possible state if could be in," Skoglund said.

If you come upon an oil-covered bird or other injured wildlife, call the toll free number, 1-866-557-1401, to alert the experts.

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