UPDATE:A representative with the Joint Incident Command confirmed that biologists with Texas Parks and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have picked up eight oiled birds and 10 dead ones. The oiled birds found alive have been taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center.
Crews are working to clean up the mess created by more than 150,000 gallons of sticky black crude oil dumped in Galveston Bay on Saturday, but with no end in sight the environmental implications will likely only get worse.
So far, Texas Parks and Wildlife officials report they've found three oil-covered birds that have been rescued and taken to facilities while they've found the carcasses of three more, according to a Texas Parks and Wildlife release. More birds are expected to be found as state and federal biologists continue to search for animals caught in the wake of the spill.
While this oil spill is nothing compared with the more than 200 million gallons in the BP spill in 2010, or about 11 million gallons in the Exxon Valdez spill that occurred March 24, 1989 (25 years ago), it's still a bad spill that could not have come at a worse time for the birds that live in and migrate through the area.
The spill occurred about eight miles from the Bolivar Peninsula, which is home to the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary. Bolivar Flats is currently a potential hotspot, since it is a significant refuge for birds. Expectations are that oiled birds will fly there and with the decreasing temperatures, more impact on birds is expected. High tides could further inundate the habitat with oil, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife release.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Once the birds are found they are being taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center set up by Unified Command, the network of agencies set up to deal with the spill, according to National Geographic.
While the Texas Parks and Wildlife only reported three oil-covered birds, Richard Gibbons, conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society, says they have found more than 50 oil-covered birds, according to National Geographic. There are more than 100 species of birds currently resting, foraging or nesting near the Bolivar sanctuary, according to a Houston Audubon Society.
The type of oil dumped into Galveston Bay this weekend is tar-like stuff usually used for fuel, Associated Press reports. Where gasoline and lighter types of crude would have floated on the surface and evaporated, this type of oil could sink and coat the bottom of the bay, potentially killing the wildlife (because nothing grows terribly well when it's covered in oil.) Of course, any kind of oil is bad for birds.
"Once the oil gets on them, they go into clean up mode which means not only are they expending precious energy stores on that process, but they are also ingesting it which often means death," Gibbons stated in the release. "We're very concerned about the impacts that this spill will have on water, air, and wildlife. We have five sanctuaries in the area, and this could not have come at a worse time with spring migration in effect."