Oil spill wreaking havoc on wildlife

Cleanup continues days after a barge collision dumped as many as 170,000 gallons of heavy oil into the water near Galveston.

The oil has not yet made it to the shores of Bolivar Peninsula, but oil-soaked wildlife has.   Volunteers with Houston Audubon said they've spotted over 50 harmed shorebirds at the Bolivar Flats Sanctuary since the spill.

March is peak migration season for shorebirds, with over 10,000 birds and 100 different species that can be found at Bolivar Flats in the spring.

Houston Audubon volunteer Winnie Burkett said there isn't much they can do to help the wildlife in danger.

"Most of the birds out here that are oiled can sill fly and you can't catch them to clean them," she said. "The only birds that can be caught and clean are birds that are incapacitated and those are the ones that have ingested or are heavily oiled."

Burkett said some species of birds are more likely to get caught up in the mess. 

"Some are attracted to oil slicks because fish give off oil and they can't tell the difference between the fish oil and fuel oil so they land in it," she said.

Shorebirds aren't the only wildlife affected, Curtis Maxey owns a bait shop in Bolivar, he said he hasn't seen a single customer since the spill.

"We have to have our fish and shrimp," he said. "Nobody is fishing or wanting to eat it they're concerned about eating it and it scares me to death."

Regardless of what animals become affected by the spill conservationists say what's important is that the public knows the best way to help them, is to give them space.

"We just want to make sure that they're not disturbed because disturbance uses energy and we they don't need to use any more energy than they need to use," Burkett said. 


Photo Courtesy of Ron Wooten, Galveston.


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