Dozens of seabirds released after being covered in mysterious goo

Wayne Freedman Image
ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Dozens of rescued seabirds released into wild after clean-up
Dozens of seabirds that were rescued after being covered in mysterious goo are now back in the wild.

FORT BAKER, Calif. (KGO) -- Dozens of seabirds that were rescued after being covered in mysterious goo are now back in the wild.

State investigators still do not know the nature of the mystery goo, but the good news is that it dissipated and no longer poses a threat.

Many birds, almost 200 of them, are still recovering from their encounters with it. In the meantime, at Baker Beach in Marin County on Wednesday, the first victims returned to the wild.

There have been 24 happy endings so far to an ongoing drama featuring a villain no one has yet identified.

"You watch CSI on TV and they get all this stuff figured out in 10 minutes. In the real world, it's not like that," International Bird Rescue volunteer John Deakin said.

Deakin has spent too many days nursing stricken seabirds, scrubbing away the mystery goo that has killed well over 200 of them.

PHOTOS: Rescue teams pull seabirds covered in unknown substance from Bay

The stuff began fouling feathers on beaches from Alameda to San Leandro earlier this month.

The unidentified substance feels like dried cement, has no recognizable smell and has left state game wardens flummoxed.

When asked if he has ever seen such a mystery, Game Warden Scott Murtha said, "No. Not with gunk on a bird."

The birds freed on Wednesday, 23 surf scoters and one skab, are the luckiest or maybe the most tenacious ones.

"These are not necessarily the first birds that came in, they're just the healthiest ones," International Bird Rescue's Barbara Callahan said.

Then they were the fastest. The boxes opened almost at once, then away the birds flashed and splashed -- each a small victory in the battle against an unknown killer.

Among the people who saved these birds, there is one presiding sentiment. "Oh, that we never see them again," Callahan said.

They feel the same about that mystery goo.

Since the source of the substance hasn't been identified, the bird rescue has had to foot the bill of helping the cleaning and recovery of the birds they're taking in at a cost of $9,500 per day. The bird rescue has been requesting donations, which can be made via their website.