flying brown pelican

About OWCN

A World Leader in Oiled Wildlife Response, Preparedness, and Research

The Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) is a statewide collective of trained wildlife care providers, regulatory agencies, academic institutions and wildlife organizations working to rescue and rehabilitate oiled wildlife in California.

We are committed to providing the best achievable proactive capture and care to oil-affected wildlife anywhere in California. This is achieved through investigating and applying innovative scientific research, creating and supporting an exceptional response team, developing and testing advanced protocols and medical therapies, and constructing and maintaining state-of-the-art facilities and response equipment.

The OWCN—a key program of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center—is an organization that provides regional, national, and international readiness and response activities to oil spills. Founded in 1994, the OWCN was established in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) as a reaction to the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound and the American Trader spill in Huntington Beach. Our founding vision was to make California the most proactive region in the world for oiled wildlife response.

Today, with both inland and marine capabilities, more than 40 member organizations, a cadre of more that 1,300 trained responders, and specialized equipment and facilities throughout California, the OWCN is an outstanding example of what's possible when diverse institutions and organizations work collaboratively toward a common goal. To date, the OWCN has led more than 75 spills throughout California and cared for more than 10,000 oiled birds, mammals, reptiles/amphibians. We have also provided essential support nationally and internationally for large-scale emergenciesthe Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the M/V Rena spill in New Zealand, and the Prestige spill in Spain are three examples of such efforts.

Our Approach: The Four "R's"

The OWCN is guided by four core principles: Readiness, Response, Research, and Reaching Out.

  1. READINESS: We proactively maintain a system of fully-equipped facilities and equipment caches throughout the state, conduct ongoing trainings at supervisor, staff, and volunteer levels, and actively test our personnel and procedures regularly through drills/exercises to ensure that the system is prepared in the event of an oil spill anywhere in California.
  2. RESPONSE: We actively recruit and incorporate the best possible organizations and professionals throughout California to allow immediate response during oil spill eventsfrom deterring at-risk species from entering contaminated areas to field collection of oiled animals, from providing immediate “first aid” at our field stabilization sites to accessing one (or more) of our 12 permanent wildlife rehabilitation facilities.
  3. RESEARCH: We continuously test and explore new and innovative ways to better improve our methods for collecting and caring for wildlife through active research, including awarding more than $4 million to more than 180 scientific studies through our competitive grant program, as well as conducting self-directed research via UC Davis staff projects on key topics of critical concern.
  4. REACHING OUT: We share knowledge and resources with the public and other wildlife professionals and organizations to ensure global dissemination of the best information on how oil affects wildlife and the environment, as well as how best to prepare and respond to oil spills that impact wild animals.