SAN PEDRO ( — The impact of last month’s oil spill off the Santa Barbara County coast is being felt as far away as San Pedro, where wildlife is still being treated.

Two weeks after the the Refugio spill, terrified pelicans are still coming into the L.A. Oiled Bird Care and Education Center, where every eye duct, every feather and every pouch is gingerly washed.

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“Today, it seems like it’s slowing down. Yesterday, we didn’t receive any live oiled birds, and today it looks like we’ll only get about three,” veterinarian Christine Fiorello said.


Ruptured Pipeline Leads To Spill Of Thousands Of Gallons Of Oil Off Refugio State Beach

So far, 52 live oiled birds have been recovered from Refugio. Almost as many dead birds have been found. But Fiorello says she is seeing some improvement.

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“We’re starting to see birds that can fly, but they are getting weaker and weaker because they are partially coated in oil,” she said.

Those birds are now filling up the cages. And others that were once too sick to fly are now preening in the aviary. Just weeks ago, their oil-slicked feathers couldn’t trap heat and they were dying of hypothermia or were too frail to hunt, Fiorello explained.

Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Eric Laughlin said wildlife experts are optimistic the surviving birds will make full recoveries.

“From seeing these birds when they were heavily oiled at the beginning to seeing them healthy and flapping their wings, it’s definitely a feel-good moment,” he shared.

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Laughlin said his team is “hopeful” those birds will fully recover and can be returned to the wild in “about a week.”