The Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center (WHC), a Center of Excellence within the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is focused on advancing the health of wildlife in balance with people and the environment. Through its projects and programs, WHC focuses on critical issues involving free-ranging and captive terrestrial and aquatic wild animal health and conservation through broad-based service, training and research activities.
One key element of the Center is its oil spill programs, which provide regional, national, and international readiness and response activities to support its mission. This program is best exemplified by its leadership of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) – a program began in 1994 (in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife) as a consequence of the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill. Its vision was to make California the most proactive region in the world for oiled wildlife response. The OWCN’s mission is to provide the best achievable proactive capture and care of oiled wildlife by applying the highest caliber science, best available personnel and medical treatments, and immediate access to the most advanced facilities available. The Network relies on its “four Rs” to fulfill its mission:
Readiness: The OWCN maintains a constant state of readiness for oiled wildlife events. This is accomplished through a network of well stocked and equipped facilities, a centralized cache of mobile response trailers, a cadre of trained personnel, proven treatment protocols, effective inter-agency communication, and a trained corps of volunteers.
Response: The OWCN is composed of more than 30 member organizations and maintains more than 12 specialized facilities in a constant state of readiness throughout the state. These factors, coupled with the OWCN’s cutting-edge protocols, allow immediate and effective response– giving oiled birds and marine mammals the best chance of survival.
Research: In addition to engaging in self-directed research projects, the OWCN annually sponsors up to $250,000 toward research projects on the effects of oil on wildlife. To date the OWCN has awarded over $3 million to more than 140 scientific studies, resulting in improved understanding of the care, treatment, and rehabilitation of oil-affected wildlife.
Reaching Out: An important part of the OWCN’s activities is sharing knowledge and experience with other organizations, governments, scientists, and the general public. Some of the ways the OWCN conducts outreach include: presentations, informational materials, consultations, participation in and sponsorships of regional and international conferences, collaboration with other response organizations, and development of national and international oiled animal care standards.
Since 1995, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network has responded to over 75 spills throughout California, caring for over 8,000 oiled birds and marine mammals. Additionally, the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center has led or participated in spill response both nationally and internationally, including the Macondo/Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.