Oiled Wildlife Care Network

volunteers washing an oiled grebe

Oiled Wildlife Care Network

The Oiled Wildlife Care Network is a California-based oiled wildlife response organization that boasts more than 30 different member groups, including world-class aquaria, universities, scientific organizations and rehabilitation groups.

Established in 1994 by the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) in response to the Exxon Valdez in Alaska and the American Trader oil spill in Huntington Beach, the OWCN is administered by the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Recognized as an international leader in oil spill response, the OWCN focuses on four core areas to expediently and effectively offer the best achievable capture and care for oil-affected wildlife:

  • Readiness: Continual training and drilling of facilities and personnel, and incremental improvements to wildlife contingency plans are critical for rapid deployment during oil spill disasters

  • Response: Providing immediate access to permanent wildlife rehabilitation facilities, trained personnel, and key supplies is necessary for giving care to oil-affected wildlife;

  • Research: Exploring improvements to methods for collecting and caring for wildlife through active research helps to ensure the use of the best medical therapies during oiled wildlife rehabilitation efforts; and

  • Reaching Out: Sharing knowledge and resources with the public and other wildlife professionals allows global dissemination of the best information possible on the effects of oil on wildlife and their environment.

Oiled Wildlife Care Network History

The OWCN was established by the California Legislature to prepare for catastrophic oil spills in coastal waters. Between 1994 and 2001, much of the OWCN's efforts went into increasing capacity for oiled wildlife rehabilitation along the California coast. Together with OSPR, the OWCN constructed major facilities in the San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Humboldt regions. The OWCN also began working with wildlife organizations throughout the state to upgrade existing facilities and increase capacity to care for oiled birds and mammals.

Since the completion of the initial construction and capital improvement projects, the OWCN's focus has broadened to include all aspects of oiled wildlife response. These include extensive training and preparedness, fostering inter-agency cooperation, refining emergency response procedures, and supporting research activities to improve oiled wildlife response efforts.

Since 1995, the OWCN has responded to more than 75 oil spills throughout California and has cared for nearly 8,000 oiled birds and mammals.

Funding for the OWCN's ongoing operations (including staffing, facility maintenance, equipment/supply purchases, training costs and research support) comes from a portion of the interest generated from California's Oil Spill Response.

When the OWCN is activated for spill response, the party responsible for the spill (if any) is billed for the cost of the OWCN's response and rehabilitation efforts using a predetermined rate schedule. In the case where no responsible party is identified, the OWCN activities may be funded from the Oil Spill Response Trust Fund. In situations where no oil spill is observed and the OWCN is not officially activated yet oiled birds or mammals are captured, the OWCN provides support to its Member Organizations to supplement the cost of caring for affected animals.

Visit the Oiled Wildlife Care Network website.