Is it Better to Euthanize Oiled Birds?

It never ceases to amaze me how humans find more and more ways to hurt  animals on this planet.

BP’s oil spill disaster is no exception. It is estimated that more than 100 miles of coastline have been affected, thus far.  Indigenous and migratory birds in the Gulf of Mexico wetlands are coated with, and have ingested, oil and dispersants floating throughout the once pristine waters.  How ironic is it that the brown pelican, the state bird of Louisiana, is one of the many wild fowl species hit hard by the out-of-control oil drill gusher?

Some scientists state it’s more humane to euthanize these wild fowl than attempt to clean and rehabilitate them.  Why?  Because the dedicated efforts of wildlife experts and volunteers to painstakingly wash the oil-coated birds, monitor their health through blood work, and rehydrate them is often not enough.  Sadly, many die anyway.

Here’s what happens when a wild bird becomes contaminated with crude oil. The instinct to preen their feathers takes over all other needs, including feeding and evading predators.  By preening, birds ingest oil which causes systemic damage to their internal organs.  By not eating, they become dehydrated and malnourished.  And with no ability to evade predators, they are more prone to the Darwinian cycle.

Preening is a bird’s natural way of keeping their feathers aligned, clean and in place, which ensures buoyancy and a watertight seal for proper body temperature.  Much like shingles on a roof, birds’ feathers need to be aligned and positioned just right for protection from the water.

The National Wildlife Federation states, “The Gulf Coast is extremely important for hundreds of species of migrants, which variously breed, winter and rest here during migration. The population effects on birds from this spill will be felt as far north as Canada and Alaska and as far south as South America.” 

Spiegel Online talked with Silvia Gaus, a biologist at the Wattenmeer National Park along the North Sea in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.  “According to serious studies, the middle-term survival rate of oil-soaked birds is under 1 percent,” says Gaus.  

Gaus’ experience comes from the 2002 Prestige oil spill which killed 250,000 birds off the coasts of Spain, Portugal and France. Out of thousands of birds cleaned, only 600 survived long enough to be released back into the wild.   The median survival of the released birds was seven days. 

Many organizations are actively involved with helping wildlife victims of the BP Gulf oil spill, including the International Bird Rescue Research Center, the National Audubon Society, the Tri-State Bird Rescue, the National Wildlife Federation, as well as the many dedicated volunteers and veterinarians at the Ft. Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Buras, Louisiana.

Please note, do not attempt to rescue an oiled or injured bird.  If you discover one, contact the Oiled Wildlife hotline at 866-557-1401.

SIGN THE PETITIONS!

Find full Care2 Coverage of the Spill here.

Before and After oiled Brown Pelican washed at the Fort Jackson, Lousiana Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. May 14, 2010

Please credit:
International Bird Rescue Research Center (http://www.ibrrc.org) 


80 comments

June Bullied
june bullied8 years ago

if there's hope, then yes save the birds. if the birds are weak and exhausted from struggling then yes it is kinder to euthanize them. it never ceases to amaze me how the human race always manages to harm the animals.

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Graham N.
Graham N8 years ago

Sorry guys. It's sad, I know, but you can't save these birds. Period. Research has shown that when an oiled cleaned up bird is released, it dies! Pretty damned fast, too. The British Ornothological Trust's research found they die inside SEVEN days! This compares with wild birds released after other rescues and medical intervention of 599 days. There is no point in all that effort to "save" them because all you are doing is prolonging their distress and letting them loose to die slowly of starvation out in the sea. It is much better to destroy them humanely and spend the rest of the time, effort and - let's not be coy about it - money on saving other birds that have a better chance of survival.

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Niarica L.
Niarica L.8 years ago

signed

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Astro S.
Astro S8 years ago

Cleaning and feeding them would be #1, but euthenasia is better than leaving them oil soaked.. Doing NOTHING is the WORST thing you can do.

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Wendy F.
Jane Parker8 years ago

Everything needs to be done for the affected wildlife. It was human greed again that caused this and they MUST be made to pay, no matter what the cast.

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Elise Harrington
Elise Harrington8 years ago

-sigh-

I suppose it would be best to wash and treat the less damaged birds first, for they have the highest survival rate. As for the rest... I'd like to think we'd try everything we can before 'putting them to sleep' but, with so many injured birds to attend to, (with possibly higher survival odds) is that efficient?

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Inez Deborah Altar

NO! Appropriate treatment exists and should be given to them, saving or what?

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Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y8 years ago

No, it's more humane to at least try to save some birds. Why? If even just a few percent survive, at least those who died got some decent care and food. After all, we were the ones who screwed up their environment. It seems like the least we human beings could do.

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Lynne S.
Lynne S8 years ago

How many cleaned birds have survived after spills in the US? ( Exxon Valdez) Why are the only statistics being quoted from foreign countries? The very ill birds(those with no chance of survival) could be euthanized humanely so more effort can be spent on those that are salvageable. It is all very tragic.

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Lynne S.
Lynne S8 years ago

How many cleaned birds have survived after spills in the US? ( Exxon Valdez) Why are the only statistics being quoted from foreign countries? The very ill birds(those with no chance of survival) could be euthanized humanely so more effort can be spent on those that are salvageable. It is all very tragic.

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