Local Environmental Group Helps on Gulf Coast

9 years 3 months 1 week ago Saturday, July 03 2010 Jul 3, 2010 Saturday, July 03, 2010 11:40:52 AM CDT July 03, 2010 in News

Wes Verrill is what the Big Muddy Wildlife Foundation calls a "law enforcement officer." Verrill returned home two weeks ago from his trip to the Gulf.

"This is a national disaster," Verrill said. "My primary focus there was for the dead birds that were coming in."

Verrill says that, on average, he took anywhere from 50 to 100 birds into the care center for cleaning every day. The center not only cleaned the birds, but treated them for any health conditions they may have had. Most of the birds the center took in were covered in the dark, muddy oil. This covered their feathers, making it nearly impossible for them to fly. This proved to be problematic because the birds will need to migrate during seasonal changes, and more importantly, they need to be capable of escaping predators.

So far, Verrill is the only person from the organization to have gone to help in the Gulf. However, his record could soon be short-lived. Others from Big Muddy say they will keep sending workers to help with the clean-up for as long as the spill is a prevailing problem. They don't believe there is any way this problem will be resolved anytime in the near future.

Verrill ran the only dead bird collection site in the state of Louisianna. However, when the spill worsened and the oil kept spreading, he ended up needing to extend the collection sites over two more states including Alabama and Florida.

Thomas Bell is one of the supervisors at Big Muddy. He explained the purpose of sending Verrill.

"As they brought oil birds in, they would separate the ones that were already dead from the ones they thought they could save," Bell said. "The ones they could save were sent to facilities where they clean them. They actually clean the oil off the birds and try to restore them to some form of health."

Deploying workers is costly, as Big Muddy had to take into consideration travel, lodging, and equipment expenses. However, Verrill says it's BP who is footing the bill for him to go over and help out. Big Muddy didn't have the travel expense figures available, but did confirm it is the biggest crisis to which it has ever responded.

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