Jan 27, 2012

Effects of Oil on Wildlife

WildRescue’s founder and director, Rebecca Dmytryk, presented two talks at the Effects of Oil on Wildlife conference this week, held, fittingly, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Her first presentation, Effective Field Operations, written with her husband, Duane Titus. Both Duane and Rebecca have extensive experience collecting oiled wildlife and spent 5 months in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

The talk emphasized the importance of collecting injured animals quickly, being well prepared with a comprehensive response plan and pre-trained responders. Animals collected sooner than later are usually in better condition and go through the washing and rehabilitation process more quickly.

A response plan should consider three chief components of a rescue mission: human safety, the animal's welfare, and the potential for success. It will also be based on the Golden Hour - the period of time in which the animal stands the greatest chance of surviving, if captured and treated. This period will be based on the animal's age, extent of injury (is it able to forage and find shelter), toxicity of the product (if any), and the climate. A response plan will also be based on available resources, such as pre-trained responders, equipment, and supplies. Generally speaking, there can never be too many or too much.

Rebecca's second talk, written with Jay Holcomb, was on stress - Understanding Stress and Minimizing Stressors. During this presentation she addressed the issue of over-handling animals, pointing out that wild animals - no matter the species - will perceive humans as a predator. Each time caretakers walk by or reach into an animal's cage, from the animal's perspective, they are being attacked. Time after time.

While stress is not a bad thing - it is part of life and can be very beneficial to our growth, development, health, and survival - repeated or extended exposure to stressful conditions can be life-threatening. Even short term.

Research has revealed that healthy wild birds, held in captivity, can lose a significant amount of body weight and muscle - as much as 23% in just 24 hours after being caught - especially those that were repeatedly handled. In their frightened state, their metabolic rate doubled! 

It is important, then, that wildlife rescuers take steps to minimize stressors, for example: covering crates with sheets, minimizing disturbances, and making sure the animal's eyes are covered when they are handled.

Also during the conference, Rebecca debut her new book, Wildlife Search and Rescue, selling a number of copies to colleagues from around the world.

Dr. Valeria Ruoppolo, a colleague from Brazil, who
operates Aiuka, enjoys the scent of the crisp, new pages.

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