H-CENTRAL COAST

Feb 18, 2013 10:45 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News (KO)

Volunteers working to clean oiled seabirds locally

If you have noticed a sticky, black substance on your feet after a recent walk on the beach on the Central Coast, you are not alone.

Dozens of oiled seabirds are being found up and down the region. Wildlife experts say the sticky situation is messing up the financial picture of rescue organizations.

"Santa Barbara Wildlife takes in about 300 oiled birds per year," said Julia Parker at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network.

Some of the birds are covered head-to-toe.

It's a naturally-occurring event, said Tyson Butzke of California State Parks.

"Here on the Central Coast, they actually have one of the largest oil seepages," Butzke said.

The seepages can spew thousands of gallons of oil daily.

"This is naturally-occurring and it forms tar balls, which winds up adhering to the rocks, adhering to the beach," Butzke said.

It also sticks to local wildlife.

"This kind of seepage is not like your typical oil spill, so if an animal gets a tar ball in a feather, they're able to clean it," Butzke said.

But when the animals can't clean themselves, they end up at volunteer organizations like Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network. However, caring for and cleaning the birds is expensive and time-consuming. That leaves organizations doing all the dirty work and picking up the tab.

For more on Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, click here.

In San Luis Obispo County, Morro Bay-based Pacific Wildlife Care does similar work and accepts donations.

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