Unknown film kills 20 birds, threatens dozens more

A viscous and unidentified substance has killed 20 birds in the East Bay since Friday and is threatening dozens more, an animal shelter spokesperson said today.

The mysterious substance was found on 100 seabirds in the East Bay but animal rescue experts said they don’t know what the coating is.

Barbara Callahan, International Bird Rescue executive director, said in a statement on Saturday:

“We have not seen this type of substance before and tests have shown it is not petroleum-based.”

Staff from the East Bay Regional Park District notified the nonprofit late Friday of many birds covered in the material, bird rescue officials said.

The birds were found at multiple sites on land and water in the East Bay including the Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda, Hayward Regional Shoreline and at the San Leandro Marina, according to the nonprofit.

International Bird Rescue has received 89 birds at its Fairfield wild rescue center, where 11 more were expected to arrive as of late this morning, according to rescue center officials.

Surf Scoters, Buffleheads and Common Goldeneyes were among the types of seabirds brought to the Fairfield center.

According to Callahan, the nonprofit is using all its resources to making sure the birds are treated:

 

“Our staff veterinarian and wildlife rehabilitation team is working overtime to ensure all birds transported to us receive optimal emergency care.”

Nonprofit officials have described the substance as “vicious,” similar to petroleum, and clear to pale in color.

The substance breaks down a bird’s feather structure, preventing the animal from regulating its body temperature in the Bay Area’s cold water, resulting in hypothermia or death.

The animal shelter staff has not determined if the material is toxic but officials said the staff is using the same safety precautions they would use to treat animals from an oil spill.

On Saturday, staff members coated feather samples with the substance but were unable to remove it.

Today they have had some success in washing the contaminated birds with baking soda, vinegar, a pre-treatment solution and Dawn dishwashing liquid, which is used on birds in need of treatment after oil spills, Callahan said.

The seabirds must receive a week’s worth of care before they are considered for release, she said.

The nonprofit is paying the emergency care costs for the birds out if its own pocket and seeking donations from the public that can be made by mail to International Bird Rescue at 4369 Cordelia Road in Fairfield or online at http://www.birdrescue.org.

Members of Wildlife Emergency Services, an animal emergency response nonprofit, will be looking for and rescuing birds with the mysterious substance in Hayward, according to executive director Rebecca Dmytryk.

Officials from International Bird Rescue said law enforcement officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife were also notified of the incident and are investigating.

Several of the dead birds were taken to the CDFW Wildlife Investigation Lab in Sacramento, where staff will perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

The public is advised to not attempt to capture the birds and to report sightings to the organization’s pager at (831) 429-2323.