responders on the beach


When an oil spill happens, the care for impacted wildlife, from capture in the field to medical care at a facility, falls under what is called, the Wildlife Branch, which is the name given to just one of the many groups that sit within the Incident Command for the oil spill response.  The Wildlife Branch is responsible for taking care of all the wildlife that is impacted or might be impacted during an oil spill incident. The Wildlife Branch is subdivided into several response groups, including Reconnaissance, Hazing, Recovery, Field Stabilization, and Primary Care.

When an oil spill happens, there are several different ways that the OWCN receives the information and goes into action:

  1. NOTIFICATION is when the OWCN is first informed of an oil spill, but usually no further action is taken unless the OWCN gets notice of “Activation
  2. ACTIVATION is when the OWCN officially begins to act on a response; this includes such things as informing the Network of the spill, starting to schedule work shifts based on who is available and how far away from the spill they are, and packing supplies and equipment that will be needed for responding to the spill (both for the field and for the facility).  
  3. MOBILIZATION is when the OWCN Management Team from Davis starts traveling to an oil spill. During this stage, the facility (or facilities) that are closest to the spill start getting ready to receive impacted animals.  Sometimes the spill is large enough that several different facilities are used, or if there are different types of animals, such as seals and sea lions, as well as birds.  If there is a spill that has pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) as well as birds that get oiled, these different animals will be cared for at different facilities.  Such was the case during the Refugio Oil Spill in 2015, where birds were cared for at the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center (San Pedro, CA), and California Sea Lions were transported to San Diego, where they were cared for at the Oiled Wildlife Care Center at SeaWorld.

For information on specific steps during a response, visit the Response Steps page.

For information on how California responds to oil spills, read the California Wildlife Response Plan.

Note: It is not safe to handle oiled wildlife without proper safety training. 

To report oiled wildlife: 1-877-UCD-OWCN (877-823-6926)