Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Begins Wildlife Rehabilitation After Gulf Coast Oil Spill

Release Date: 05/08/2010


Biologists and enforcement agents from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) were on the water Friday, May 7, 2010, scouting for oiled wildlife and marine life.  Boats left Venice early Friday morning making regular trips throughout the day.

As the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill reaches land the crucial task of rescuing oiled wildlife begins.  Oiled marine mammals such as dolphins, manatees, and whales as well as sea turtles are taken to the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans and other locations along the coast.  Birds and other wildlife species are transported to the Oiled Wildlife Recon & Recovery Facility at Fort Jackson near Venice, LA where they are examined and triaged.

"Most of the animals are dehydrated and malnourished by the time we get them," explains LDWF State Wildlife Veterinarian, Dr. James LaCour, "so our first tasks are to rehydrate and feed them. Washing off the oil comes later.  Once the animal is stable, then we wash off the oil.  If we attempt to wash the animal first, we could worsen its condition or cause the animal to die because of its heightened stress level."

The rehabilitation facility at Fort Jackson is fully functional.  It warehouses transportation cages, provides triage, rehab areas and pens for animals that need a longer stay.  Some pens include ponds especially for birds. Once a bird is preening, eating and flying on its own, it is ready for release.

"It's sort of a "M.A.S.H." type set-up for the animals, with triage first, basic rehabilitation afterwards and then release." commented Dr. LaCour.   The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determines the location of the release, which can be anywhere in the United States.

When asked what to expect in the coming days, Dr. LaCour says it all depends on the oil.  "If it hits the areas where the pelicans and osprey are nesting with young chicks, it could have drastic effects. We're taking it one day at a time."

In preparation for injured and oiled wildlife, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) delivered 3,000 animal crates to a warehouse near Fort Jackson for LDWFs use.  The crates, used for pet evacuation during hurricanes Gustav and Ike, were shipped from an animal evacuation facility at Dixon Correctional Institute near Zachary and the Central Louisiana State Hospital in Pineville.

For more information related to the oil spill, visit http://www.emergency.louisiana.gov.  Connect with us on www.facebook.com/GOHSE and on Twitter @GOHSEP. View photos in from the state's response efforts at http://www.flickr.com/photos/lagohsep.

For more information contact Marianne Burke at mburke@wlf.la.gov or 225-315-6878.