Gulf Coast Rescue Update - How You Can Help

More on PawNation: Gulf Coast Animals, Gulf Coast Rescue, gulf oil spill, GulfCoastAnimals, GulfCoastRescue, GulfOilSpill

Pelican being washed picture Workers wash oil off a brown pelican affected by Deepwater Horizon oil spill at the Fort Jackson Bird Rehabilitation Center in Buras, La. Charlie Neibergall, AP

Many of us feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems in the Gulf, but aren't sure what the best ways to help might be. Part of the problem for both potential volunteers and rescue organizations is that dealing with an oil spill is a very different situation than helping out with a natural disaster such as a hurricane or flood. This situation involves hazardous materials and potentially dangerous wild animals, so the all-hands-on-deck approach just doesn't work.

David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation, tells Paw Nation that as much as we might want to physically help these vulnerable animals ourselves, we shouldn't get into our cars and head to the gulf to try and save the pelicans with our own hands.

"So many people want to get involved helping to clean the animals, and that's not possible," Mizejewski said. "We don't want people getting sick and dying from oil exposure because they were trying to help animals. And the animals themselves are dangerous. If you get whacked in the head with the wing of a pelican, it's not a weak thing."

Mizejewski adds, "It's very easy to hurt, injure or really over-stress the animal, and it's even worse if you don't know what you're doing."

While you should leave the caring of the animals to the specialists who are licensed and trained in wildlife handling and hazardous materials, that doesn't mean that you can't support the efforts of organizations and volunteers who do have the right skills to help. (For more information on what's being done read our article: Gulf Coast Rescue Update: What's Being Done.) Here are some ideas:

1. Give
Donate to organizations involved in damage assessment or habitat restoration.

The National Audubon Society has opened an oil-spill volunteer response center in Mississippi to collect bird data, transport wildlife, make nets and other rescue materials, and operate a bird hotline. It is also marshaling bird watchers to track affected species. Donate here to support the Audubon's efforts on the ground.

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