California officials are unable to identify a grey, goo-like substance that has been found coating the feathers of hundreds of birds. More than 200 seabirds have been found dead along the coast, while more than 300 have been rescued so far.
The strange, gooey substance degrades the water-repellent properties in the birds’ feathers, causing hypothermia from extended stays in the water.
The seabirds – Surf Scoters, Buffleheads, Goldeneyes, and Horned Grebes – have been turning up dead or in need of rescue along 20 miles of coastline in the San Francisco Bay area over the past week. If they react quickly, rescuers can treat the birds for hypothermia and then wash off the goo with baking soda, vinegar and a chemical agent, then soap and water. Others are not so fortunate.
“The birds tend to come into care needing hydration and medical stabilization, and we have a mandatory 24-hour stabilization process before cleaning,” spokeswoman Barbara Callahan of International Bird Rescue told CNN.
Officials know the gooey substance is not oil because it would be far harder to treat, and officials think whatever the substance is, it was probably dumped.
“It’s some material that we nor the wildlife center has ever seen before,” Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a real mystery.”