The International Bird Rescue has been swamped this month with an influx of seabirds found covered in crude oil along the Southern California coast.
Since the beginning of February, International Bird Rescue (IBR) said it has taken in 77 oiled birds that were found emaciated and suffering from hypothermia along local beaches, stretching from Malibu to the South Bay and Long Beach area and farther south to Newport Beach.
The culprit, San Pedro-based IBR said, is natural oil seepage found in the waters of Southern California that affects cliff and sea-dwelling diving birds such as the Common Murre. In the Santa Barbara Channel alone, more than 1,000 barrels of oil seep naturally from the ocean floor.
The thick oil completely coats the birds and is similar to a person putting molasses in his or her hair, IBR executive director Jay Holcomb told Patch last year. Once coated, the birds can suffer from hypothermia because the oil hampers the birds' natural insulation, Holcomb said.
However, because the oil seepages are not considered official oil spills, rescue efforts are costly.
“Little attention is paid to these natural events because there is no responsible party, such as an oil company, to pay the costs," IBR executive director Jay Holcomb said in an announcement of the problem. "The responsible party in this case is Mother Nature, and she does not come with a credit card.”
Also hampering rescue efforts is the fact that IBR has to rely on the good samaritans in community to recover the birds.
"Since this isn’t an official oil spill, there isn’t an organized effort to capture these birds,” said Holcomb. “They are found by the public one at a time and brought to our center for care. We estimate there are more birds are out there that are not being picked up.”
Because IBR bears the brunt of cleaning and rehabilitation costs, the nonprofit is asking for donations and volunteers to help with its efforts.
Those that find an oiled bird along the beach are asked to call (866) WILD-911 for assistance. To report oiled wildlife sightings, call (877) UCD-OWCN.