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Survival and Behavior of Western Gulls Following Exposure to Oil and Rehabilitation

Richard T. Golightly, Scott H. Newman, Emilie N. Craig, Harry R. Carter and Jonna A. K. Mazet
Wildlife Society Bulletin (1973-2006)
Vol. 30, No. 2 (Summer, 2002), pp. 539-546
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3784514
Page Count: 8
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Survival and Behavior of Western Gulls Following Exposure to Oil and Rehabilitation
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Abstract

In California, care of wildlife injured in oil spills has been legislatively mandated and has resulted in development of professionally supervised rehabilitation efforts. However, the efficacy and success of these programs need evaluation. We assessed survivorship and behavior of radio-marked western gulls (Larus occidentalis) that were rehabilitated via California's Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) following the 1997 Torch/Platform Irene Pipeline spill in south-central California. The test groups were 1) oiled and rehabilitated gulls (n=7), 2) non-oiled but rehabilitated gulls (n=10), and 3) non-oiled and not rehabilitated gulls (n=10). All groups were released to the wild in October 1997 and monitored twice weekly by aerial telemetry until January 1998, and once weekly thereafter until June 1998. One non-oiled and not rehabilitated bird died 115 days after release. All oiled and rehabilitated gulls survived until transmitters failed (127-235 days), despite unfavorable El Niño conditions in early 1998. No statistically significant differences could be detected in the size of geographical areas used by the three groups of gulls. The results of this study suggest that modern rehabilitation programs such as OWCN have the potential to reduce impacts to seabird populations from marine oil spills by returning some oiled birds back to wild populations.

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