as a result of migration through oil-contaminated waters,and there is a substantial possibility of consumingcontaminated plant material and other incidentalorganisms. Manatees may not be severely affected by theoil spill through direct contact, but they are sensitive tohabitat disturbances and injury, such as collisions withboats and barges and propeller strikes, that may occurduring response actions.
Because sea otters spend a great deal of time on the ocean’ssurface and depend exclusively on their fur for insulationand buoyancy, they are highly susceptible to oilcontamination. Sea otters are considered vulnerable to oilspill contamination during their entire life cycle. The mostharmful effect from direct exposure to oil is the fouling of fur, which may lose its ability to insulate. In addition,breathing hydrocarbon vapors and ingesting oil as theygroom themselves or feed on contaminated prey candamage their lungs, cause digestive tract bleeding, andresult in liver and kidney damage. Indirect effects mayinclude loss of habitat and food resources.
Polar bears rely on blubber, guard hair, and a denseunderfur for thermoregulation and insulation. Polar bearsmay groom oil-contaminated fur; swallowing oil duringgrooming has killed several bears in Canada. There is someevidence that oil’s toxic effects on polar bears include aninability to produce red blood cells and kidney damage.
RESPONSE OPTIONS TO PROTECT WILDLIFE
WHEN A SPILL OCCURS,
the severity of injuries to fish,wildlife, and sensitive environments depends on thelocation and the quantity and type of oil. Oils tend tospread rapidly whether spilled on land or water, but thespreading will be enhanced if the spill reachesgroundwater, lakes, streams, rivers, and the ocean.Currents, winds, and temperatures may complicateresponse efforts. Once the spill reaches the environment,fish, wildlife, and sensitive environments are at risk. Threecategories of response options have been developed tomeet the needs of responders trying to minimize injuries tothe environment.
Containing Spilled Oil
The first response strategy for fish, wildlife, andenvironmental protection emphasizes controlling therelease and spread of spilled oil at the source to prevent orreduce contamination of potentially affected species, theirhabitats, and sensitive environments. In addition, primaryresponse strategies include the removal of oiled debris,including contaminated fish and wildlife carcasses, inwater and on land.These response options are often limited in theirapplication and effectiveness, making it necessary to try tomaneuver healthy wildlife out of the path of the spill.
Keeping Animals Away from Spilled Oil
The second response option for protecting wildlifeemphasizes keeping unoiled wildlife away from oiledareas through the use of deterrents and pre-emptivecapture. Like first response options, second responseoptions also prevent healthy and clean wildlife frombecoming oiled, but they may not be effective unlessconditions are nearly perfect. The techniques, often calledhazing, use a variety of visual, auditory, and experimentalsensory deterrent methods. Visual deterrents include shinyreflectors, flags, balloons, kites, smoke, scarecrows, andmodel predators. Auditory methods often rely on loudnoises generated from propane cannons, alarms, modelwildlife distress calls, predator recordings, and other noisemakers. These techniques have been used with mixedsuccess by airport personnel to keep flocks of birds awayfrom runways. A combination of visual and auditorydevices may be used, including herding with aircraft orhelicopters, and boats. One promising experimentaldeterrent is the use of the chemical that produces grapeflavoring. When the grape flavoring is used in conjunctionwith bird feed, it appears to effectively deter birds fromlandfills and public parks where birds pose a health threatto humans. It might be used to create a buffer around theslick to preclude birds from swimming into it. Theapplication would only have an effect on birds that swimon the surface and less so on diving birds, which continueto present extensive operational problems for recoveryduring spill response.Cases involving endangered species may warrant the useof unusual or heroic secondary response options. Twounique applications involving fish employ a visual methodand an auditory method.1.Many fish have a sensitivity to bright lights. Forexample, walleyes in Lake Michigan collide with rocksor beach themselves in an attempt to escape automobilefloodlights at close range. Lighting may be manipulatedto restrict fish movement in specific areas.2.Most bony fish have the ability to detect vibrations.High frequencies have been used to keep fish awayfrom the turbines at hydroelectric dams. While thesemethods have not been proven successful for all species,the method does hold promise for some.If a spill occurs on land, a combination of deterrent devicesmight be employed to keep wildlife from entering the spillarea. Deterrence is more difficult if a spill occurs on waterand the slick is moving. It is very difficult to keep thedevices actively scaring wildlife from the area. Untendedor misdirected hazing of wildlife could result in accidentlymoving them into oiled areas. Noises and visual deterrentswork best in a smaller, well-defined spill area, which may
23EPA Office of Emergency and Remedial Response •