In February, Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research opened its new $3.5 million, state-of-the-art wildlife response annex to treat and house animals affected by oil spills.
As of midsummer, executive director Lisa Smith was happy to report that the facility had hosted only a handful of patients. “There have been no major spills so far, which is a good thing,” she says. “We built it in the hopes of not using it.”
Approaching its 40th year, the nonprofit rehabs more than 2,500 injured or orphaned native wild birds annually at the Frink Center for Wildlife in Newark. The neighboring annex will help staff and volunteers to more efficiently treat oiled birds and other wildlife.
For example, the narrow space in the Frink Center allowed for only two wash lines at one time. The annex supports up to five wash lines simultaneously. The facility includes a reception area; exam room where medications are administered; a kitchen with species-specific food; washing, rinsing and rehab areas; and a training room.
Once an animal is medically stabilized, it is taken to the washing area where it is scrubbed with a mix of water and Dawn dishwashing detergent. Each animal requires a four-person team and up to 80 gallons of water heated to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. A team of four staffers, a wildlife veterinarian, and a core group of a dozen or more volunteers are trained to handle the process.
Tri-State, which is internationally known for its work with oiled animals, will bring back animals for treatment from anywhere within a six-hour radius. It also travels to handle incidents on-site.
Customers at the new annex have included oiled cormorants, a baby snapping turtle and a great horned owl. Smith is quick to point out that Tri-State will treat any animal that has been oiled, from salamanders to muskrats to horseshoe crabs. “You name it. We wash it,” she says.