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How To: Clean A Pelican

Here's your step-by-step guide to cleaning up your oiled pelican. It goes without saying that you shouldn't try this at home. But if you decided to volunteer for animal rescue in the Gulf, here's what your process would be like!

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  • 1. Find Your Oiled Pelican

    Pelicans need to be safely caught, transported to the cleaning site and then stabilized before they can be cleaned. Oil-covered birds are often exhausted, hungry, and at risk for hypo- or hyperthermia. They need to chill out before going through the stressful process of cleaning. (photo via)

  • Rescuers in the Gulf have found 609 oiled covered birds so far. Birds can be held for as long as 5 days before being cleaned. (photo via)

  • 2. Treat with warmed vegetable oil

    The vegetable oil helps break up the oil clinging to the bird's feathers.

  • 3. Wash (x3)

    In a bath of 1% blue Dawn, gently scrub the pelican. Use a tooth brush on the bill, cotton swabs around the eyes, and a soft towel but NO SOAP inside its mouth or in its creepy pouch. (photo via)

  • This will take at least an hour, depending on the size of your pelican. You'll also need to work with a teammate who'll hold the pelican while you work.

  • 4. Rinse

    Once the washing's done (and your tubs of water have turned a dull brown with the oil and grime you've cleaned off), give your pelican a generous rinsing under a hose. Wildlife rescuers estimate a pelican cleaning can consume as much as 300 gallons of water.

  • 5. Dry & Recuperate

    You don't need to towel dry your bird, but sometimes they do get blown dry. After that, it's probably best to give it 7-10 days to recuperate, build up strength, and regrow lost feathers. (photo via)