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Birdchick: Should oil spill birds be euthanized?

The toll being taken on wildlife in the gulf is unimaginable and many birds will not survive. But is euthanizing them really a solution we should consider?

There’s no way to avoid talking about the horrendous BP Oil Spill.  I don’t want the blog to become all awful news on the oil spill all the time, but I can’t ignore it either.  The oil spill has affected many people deeply–areas and birds and wildlife we love so much are in the path of this practically impossible to clean and lethal mess.

Not only am I disturbed by the images of injured birds and soiled coastal marshes, I’m also disturbed by my recent mindset–which is clinging to the fragile (if not foolish) hope in the form of Kevin Costner does he really have a magical contraption to separate the water from the oil? Could this really work? He does have a lot to make up for from Waterworld.

As I’ve been reading some of the reports on rescuing birds, I’ve seriously questioned if cleaning and treating them for oil ingestion is a good idea.  The goal with wildlife rehab is to get the bird back out in the wild.

But what kind of environment will we send the birds to?  There’s more oil every day.  It’s not like the birds are being cleaned and treated to come back to a somewhat better situation–it’s only worse each day.


An article came in to my news feed this morning asking the question: Is it better overall to euthanize oiled birds? Here’s a quote from the article”

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.

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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.”

Survival rate of less than 1%?  Median survival of released birds only seven days? The birds spent all that time in rehab only to die about a week later?

We all want to feel useful in this situation and I think most of us feel a deep need to do something concrete to help. Something beyond sending money or even our hair and pantyhose.  Right now the only thing concrete appears to be cleaning and treating oiled birds and wildlife. But in the long run, are we really helping them when they are released to an environment that will only be coated with more oil?

This post was originally published by Sharon Stiteler on Birdchick.