LOUISIANA–(ENEWSPF)–July 16, 2010. Raccoon Island, off the coast of Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana, is being closely monitored for the impact of oil on wildlife that inhabits the land mass that is part of the Isle Dernieres Barrier Island Refuge.
Managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), Raccoon Island provides habitat for one of the largest nesting colonies in the state. Consequently, LDWF biologists as well as biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have been monitoring the island daily and following carefully crafted protocols that consider the overall health and safety of the bird colony when recovery of oiled birds is considered. The protocols require that bird colonies are not to be disturbed unless a large percentage of the birds are oiled, or heavily oiled individuals are accessible without causing increased colony stress or oiling. The number and extent of oiled birds currently observed on Raccoon Island do not meet the requirements of the protocols.
Federal and state biologists surveying the island have confirmed hundreds of birds have visible oil ranging from light to heavy. These observations have also been made by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology which has a video crew recording the impacts of the oil spill on wildlife.
It is difficult to assess the exact number of oiled birds and the situation is being monitored daily. In addition to approximately 20,000 nesting pairs of birds present, estimates of another 35,000 adults, immature birds, and chicks comprise a population of concern to state and federal biologists. Approximately 2,500 pairs are pelicans and the other birds are terns, gulls, and wading birds such as herons and egrets.
“We fully support the efforts of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and other officials in the region to monitor and assess the impacts on birds and other wildlife,” said Ken Rosenberg, Director of Conservation Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “We know it is too early to assess the full impacts of the oil spill on birds. The Cornell Lab’s video crew has not been involved in official survey efforts, but they have estimated the numbers of birds at their filming locations based on what they could see. In particular, we absolutely support the policies and decision-making of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding efforts to recover and rehabilitate badly oiled birds,” Rosenberg said. “They are doing a great job of ensuring that the harm to wildlife is minimized.”
“The majority of affected birds observed by the Cornell team had small amounts of oil on their feathers, and would not warrant capture and recovery efforts that could disturb and further endanger these sensitive colonies. The longer-term population impacts from these lightly oiled birds are of concern, however, and continued monitoring is critical,” concludes Rosenberg.
Of the 68 heavily oiled birds observed on July 10, 14, and 15, six were rescued safely by LDWF biologists based on protocols observed by these biologists working on the bird rescue mission. No rescues are attempted on the island where rescue activity would disturb unoiled or slightly oiled birds, and increase the possibility of putting additional birds at risk.
The rescue of oiled wildlife impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill continues to be an important mission for the LDWF and the USFWS. State and federal field biologists patrol coastal waters and marshes daily searching for wildlife in distress, including thousands of coastal shorebirds, wading birds and migratory species.
To report oiled wildlife, the public is asked to call 1-866-557-1401.