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Less than half the birds rescued in San Francisco Bay oil spill survived

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Getting scooped up from the oily muck didn’t ensure salvation for birds in last year’s San Francisco Bay oil spill. Fewer than 40% of the oil-coated birds rescued made it back into the wild. The state Oiled Wildlife Care Network collected 1,068 live birds and was able to save 418 of them for later release.

The 38.5% release rate was lower than usual for the network, which typically is able to save 50% to 75% of birds plucked from a spill. In addition, the network collected 965 birds that died of oil-related causes.

In a news release on the eve of the first anniversary of the Nov. 7, 2007 spill, network director Michael Ziccardi said several factors explained the below average survival rate: of the 31 bird species affected, a number were especially sensitive to stress. The spill also occurred at a time of year when birds tend to be in poor condition.

The injured birds were treated at the network’s regional center in Fairfield, a 12,000-square-foot facility that can care for as many as 1,000 sick birds. The network is run by the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center and funded through the state.

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The spill occurred when a cargo ship ran into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and leaked 53,000 gallons of heavy fuel into the bay.

-- Bettina Boxall


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