A historical account of oiled wildlife care in California

Scott H. Newman, Mike H. Ziccardi, Alice B. Berkner, Jay Holcomb, Curt Clumpner, Jonna A K Mazet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Oiled wildlife care in California has progressed since the 1937 San Francisco Bay Frank H. Buck oil spill when observations of oiled birds were the extent of documented spill responses. In the latter half of the 20th century. Californians responded to over 50 petroleum spills that affected wildlife. Major oil spill incidents such as the 1969 Santa Barbara/Union Platform A and 1971 San Francisco Bay Arizona and Oregon Standard killed tens of thousands of seabirds, but resulted in the establishment of International Bird Rescue Research Center focused on rehabilitating oil injured aquatic birds. At that point in time, oiled wildlife rehabilitation was conducted as a result of public demand and some industry and resource agency interest. Approximately 20 years later, the Exxon Valdez (1989) oil spill killed hundreds of thousands of seabirds in Alaska. This spill resulted in California legislation that legally mandated oiled wildlife care in California, established the Department of Fish and Game's Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and ultimately, California's Oiled Wildlife Care Network. Oiled wildlife care has unquestionably improved over the past 50 years with accelerated improvements since the OWCN was established. However, the conservation significance of oiled wildlife rehabilitation has yet to be fully demonstrated for California oil spill response efforts. Nonetheless, oil spill medicine is a new developing field and despite the costs, success rates, or biological importance of oiled wildlife care, it will continue to be conducted in California. Future improvements are likely from continued spill response experience and research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-64
Number of pages6
JournalMarine Ornithology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003


  • California
  • Oil pollution
  • Oil spill
  • Oiled wildlife care
  • Rehabilitation
  • Seabird

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Oceanography


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