Refugio oil spill: Dozens of pelicans nursed back to health

SAN PEDRO, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Dozens of birds covered in oil from the pipeline rupture at Refugio State Beach off the Santa Barbara County coast have been nursed backed to health and will soon be ready for release, wildlife officials said Monday.

More than 50 brown pelicans from the May 19 oil spill were cleaned up and rehabilitated at the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, part of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

Although nine of the birds died after they arrived, about 35 pelicans are just about ready for release.

"To see these birds before and after is amazing. These birds came in so heavily oiled that they couldn't even move their wings," said Eric Laughlin with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Dr. Christine Fiorello, the veterinarian supervising the animals' care, says most of the birds are preening themselves, a sign they're almost fully recovered.

"When they have enough energy to preen, that means that they have enough food on board, they're not cold, they're not uncomfortable, they're feeling good," Fiorello said.

If the birds continue to progress, Fiorello believes they may be released in a week to 10 days.

"They're doing well, that they're getting the right care and they're hopefully going to go home pretty soon," Fiorello said.

One more pelican is expected to arrive from the Refugio oil spill Monday, but Fiorello has hopes it will join its feathered friends back at the beach soon.
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