On April 20, 2010 an explosion 41 miles off the shore of Louisiana on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform left 11 employees dead. British Petroleum (BP) operates the license on the Transocean owned drilling rig, according to an April 21 press release issued by Deepwater Horizon Response.
By May 6, BP confirmed oil from the leaking drilling site reached a group of islands in Breton National Wildlife Refuge just northeast of the Mississippi Delta.
Wildlife veterinarians washed oil from birds affected by the spill, according to a May 19 report from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Louisiana state wildlife veterinarian Dr. James M. LaCour says the spill hasn’t had a great impact on wildlife yet. But, with spawning and nesting season underway, wildlife are less likely to move away from danger so they can care for their young.
The Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine’s Wildlife Hospital of Louisiana has volunteered to care for wildlife injured from complications of the oil spill. The first few patients included a yellow-crowned night heron, brown pelicans, while pelicans and a cormorant.
In the upcoming weeks signs of injured wildlife are expected to become more prevalent. Pelicans and gulls may experience hypothermia after oil coats their feathers, bottlenosed dolphins will become poisoned by consuming oil-tainted prey and sea turtle hatchlings are expected to have deformities, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
Other wildlife expected to feel the impact of the spill include reddish egrets, mottled ducks, royal terns, snowy plovers, sperm whales and bluefin tuna according to The National Audubon Society, as reported in the New York Times.
During the winter months the Louisiana coast is home to 70 percent of the countries waterfowl and over 100 tropical migratory birds, according to National Geographic Daily News.
Other southern states expecting wildlife to be effected by the spill include Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, according to the Louisiana Coastal Initiative, a division of the National Audubon Society.
How You Can Help
If you live in the gulf region and witness wildlife affected by the oil spill, please report it to Deepwater Horizon Response by calling (866) 557-1401.
The NWF is looking for volunteers to assist the NWF’s Gulf Coast Surveillance Teams. Volunteers watch for and report wildlife effected by the spill. Those unable to physically help the team can support the cause with a $10 donation by sending a mobile text message with the word “Wildlife” to 20222. Learn more here.
References and Suggested Further Reading:
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): Responders prepared for oil, but impact unclear
Deepwater Horizon Response: The Official Site of the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command
National Wildlife Federation: How You Can Help Wildlife Impacted by the BP Oil Spill
Global Post: 10 Animals Most at Risk from Gulf Oil Spill
The New York Times: The Oil Spill: Wildlife at Risk
National Geographic: Pictures: Gulf Oil Spill Hits Land-And Wildlife
CNN: Oil spill could be disaster for animals, experts say
NOAA: Fisheries Service