Oil Spill Volunteers May Cause More Harm Than Good

The following information was provided by St. Francis Wildlife:

Hands-on work to save oil-soaked birds and other wildlife is a complex and potentially dangerous process, and first and foremost it is important that only trained volunteers participate on the front lines. Untrained volunteers can pose a risk not only to themselves, but to the birds and wildlife they are trying to save.

Unless people have taken Tri-state's class and are certified to rescue and treat oil-soaked wildlife, they will not be permitted to work with affected wildlife.

Mark Lasalle from the National Audubon Society agrees that it is important that clean-up volunteers are properly trained.

"The last thing we need them to do is to run out there and try to rescue an injured bird without being properly trained," he said. "They can expose themselves to injury and the toxicity of the oil. What we're doing is collecting names of interested folks that when the training becomes available we can get them there so they can do it properly and safely," said Lasalle.


1. Go to the "Gulf Coast Oil Disaster: How You Can Help" web site from Audubon and fill out their volunteer registration form: http://www.audubonaction.org/site/Survey?ACTION_REQUIRED=URI_ACTION_USER_REQUESTS&SURVEY_ID=3400

2. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also has a toll-free number for volunteers to help save wildlife affected by the oil spill may sign up by calling 1-866-448-5816.

If you find a bird, turtle or mammal affected by the spill, contact the Oiled Wildlife Hotline: 1-866-557-1401.
The following information was provided by Audubon of Florida:

Well-motivated but not well informed volunteers sent out to clean debris from beaches may be disturbing nesting and other shorebirds. Volunteers—eager to move beach litter above the high water line to make it easier to clean up oil that may come ashore—are putting beach and marsh nesting shorebirds at risk.

It is nesting season for terns and plovers on Florida ’s beaches. Beach nesting birds camouflage their nest and are hard to spot. Volunteers wandering into the areas above the high water line may step eggs or chicks and may chase away parent birds leaving chicks and eggs unprotected from the sun and predators such as crows.

Some people are moving beach debris such as driftwood from the beach onto high-water areas. This is harmful as beach wildlife use naturally occurring beach debris near the water line and may be harmed when debris is piled in upland areas. Traffic in dune areas can also harm vegetation.

Safe Tips for Cleaning Litter off Beaches:

For those who want to clean litter from the beaches in anticipation of oil coming ashore, Audubon recommends the following:

Use approved access points and avoid walking or hiking through marshes or seagrass beds.

Stay below the tidal line.

Leave natural debris in place because it provides nesting benefits to shorebirds and other wildlife.

Only remove man-made litter.

Do not place litter in the dunes or above the high water line.

Don’t use equipment such as rakes, shovels or tractors.

Do not bring ATVs or other motorized vehicles onto the beach.

Do not bring dogs onto the beach (dogs are a primary sources of beach bird disturbance and mortality.)

Help spread the word by calling your local media and urging them to tell this story. Also, share these tips with your friends and family.

Finally, Audubon is encouraging willing volunteers to add their name to our volunteer registry so we can connect folks with appropriate activities when they are made available. To find out more about the registry, visit our blog here: http://audubonoffloridanews.org/?p=4419

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