Answering the Need – Helping Wildlife in Alaska
Managed by International Bird Rescue, the Alaska Wildlife Response Center (AWRC) is a 4,800-square-foot wildlife care facility in Anchorage, Alaska, that is designed for oiled wildlife rehabilitation and care while standing stocked, equipped and ready to help in all wildlife emergencies.
The AWRC provides a resource for wildlife-related emergencies and the rehabilitation of oiled wildlife by:
- Providing a centralized and specifically designed “turnkey” facility for oiled and non-oiled wildlife response for all of Alaska
- Providing professional expert personnel from International Bird Rescue in the event of an oil spill or other event involving wildlife
- Facilitating non-evasive research efforts on the effects of oil on wildlife and other pertinent research the benefits wildlife
- Providing specialized services to the oil industry, wildlife trustee agencies, and the scientific community in preparing for an oil spill or other wildlife related event.
- Providing an International Bird Rescue Alaska Representative to network with industry, trustee agencies, wildlife specialists and state and federal wildlife agencies on a regular basis.
During the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, the scale of the disaster once again emphasized an unavoidable fact: Without identified, specifically designed and centralized facilities, efforts to rehabilitate oiled and non-oiled wildlife are to some extent crippled. Clearly, logistical continuity must be a priority during oil spills.
In 1991, International Bird Rescue proposed the concept of a centralized wildlife facility to the petroleum industry as a proactive regional approach to oil spills involving wildlife. The center would also be a resource for non-oiled wildlife emergencies, research programs and general rehabilitation. Within a year of opening AWRC, International Bird Rescue agreed to house the local wildlife rehabilitation group Bird Treatment & Learning Center, or Bird TLC, at the new center as a temporary shelter for the group. For over 20 years, IBR has made this facility available for Bird TLC’s general rehabilitation work, at no cost for the first 15 of those years. This has served the community of Anchorage and the wider Alaska region as a place to rehabilitate thousands of raptors and other birds.
Services Provided by the Alaska Wildlife Response Center
Contingency Planning: International Bird Rescue works with the petroleum industry and government agencies in planning for the capture and rehabilitation of oiled and non-oiled wildlife. Planning includes:
- Identification and stockpiling of necessary supplies
- Equipment and resources and the design of practical search and collection
- Transport programs for wildlife
The AWRC is crucial to all of International Bird Rescue’s planning efforts in Alaska, as it’s centrally located and is the only “turn key,” large-scale oiled and non-oiled wildlife rehabilitation facility in Alaska.
Wildlife Emergency Preparedness: International Bird Rescue not only makes the AWRC available for wildlife emergencies of any kind, but also maintains a stockpile of supplies that can be used in emergency events.
Training: International Bird Rescue provides training programs available to government, industry personnel and private organizations. Trainings include safety procedures, search-and-collection, stabilization procedures, and the transportation and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife. Opportunities are available for interested individuals to receive on-scene training at oil spills or other wildlife events outside of Alaska.
Response: The AWRC answers the need for a facility ready to receive oiled wildlife within hours of notification of a spill. Designed to care for all species of native Alaskan birds, as well as small terrestrial and aquatic mammals other than sea otters, response time is cut to a minimum. Cleaning facilities, a critical care unit, clinical laboratory, cages and pools are in place and ready to go. Drawing on the International Bird Rescue response team, volunteers from Bird TLC and the local community, AWRC can be fully staffed with wildlife care professionals within a few hours.
Research & Rehabilitation: International Bird Rescue’s research goal is to improve rehabilitation procedures for wildlife primarily through clinical trials and post-release monitoring. In addition, analysis of data from spills, studies in nutrition, husbandry and medical protocols are also evaluated and improved. Our ultimate goal is to minimize the stress and length of the rehabilitation process while assuring that the animals cared for have the best possible chance for survival in the wild.
We also work with other wildlife professionals and make the AWRC available for approved research programs where wild animals need to be housed.
International Bird Rescue & Bird Treatment and Learning Center (Bird TLC): Since 1994, these two organizations have joined forces to create a unique relationship that benefits wildlife and people of Alaska. Bird TLC is a non-profit bird rehabilitation organization based in Anchorage that treats approximately 1,100 wild birds a year. This includes up to 70 Bald Eagles annually. With limited funds and no facility available large enough to house these birds, the decision was made to allow Bird TLC to utilize the AWRC when it was not being used for oil spills.
The benefits of this cooperative relationship are many. Bird TLC has a place to carry out its valuable work, volunteers provide regular maintenance of the AWRC and an unlimited source of experienced volunteers are available to aid IBR in an oil spill. Bird TLC volunteers provided half of the work force during the 1996 Citrus Oil Spill, Pribilof Islands, that resulted in the release of 127 King Eiders and other species.
Funding and Support
Funding for the Alaska Wildlife Response Center (AWRC) is provided by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, Alaska Clean Seas (ACS), Alaska Chadux Corporation (ACC), Cook Inlet Spill Prevention Response, Inc. (CISPRI), Navy Supervisor of Salvage, SEAPRO, and other corporate and public contributions.
Significant Responses at the AWRC
Citrus Oil Spill (1996): Approximately 180 King Eiders and other seabirds were captured in the Pribilof Islands during this spill. The oiled birds were stabilized on St. Paul Island and transported to Anchorage where International Bird Rescue staff rehabilitated them at the AWRC. Over 80% were released back to the wild.
Windy Bay Oil Spill (2001): Birds rehabilitated at the AWRC after a small spill occurred in Prince William Sound.
Baby Sea Otter Rehabilitation (1998-1999): Two infant otters were cared for at the AWRC for many months prior to be transported to an aquarium.
Airplane Grounding: AWRC housed displaced birds while a commercial jet was grounded during a volcanic ash cloud grounded the plane. Birds included storks and other species.
Oiled Swan Rehabilitated (2003): A young flightless tundra swan from the north slope oil fields becomes oiled just prior to migration and is rehabilitated at AWRC and flown to Delaware to catch up with its flock. Link here
Selandang Ayu Oil Spill (2003): Oiled birds from this oil spill in the Aleutians were rehabilitated at the AWRC.
Fish Oiled Eagle Response (2008): 30 live bald eagles covered in salmon oil are brought into care at the AWRC. IBR assisted Bird TLC with the care of these birds and all birds were stabilized, cleaned and rehabilitated over the course of a month at the AWRC.
St. Lawrence Island Oiled Bird Incident (2012): Birds rehabilitated at the AWRC.
For more information on the AWRC and its response services, please email us