Over 300 birds have been found injured and almost 100 others have died after coming into contact with “gray goo” that is in the water near the shore, according to state Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan.
Hughan says that the birds are not dying because the substance is toxic, but because it interferes with the animals’ feathers in such away that they cannot regulate their temperatures and they end up dying of hypothermia. The goo also hinders the birds’ flying abilities.
“I couldn’t even speculate as to what it might be,” said Hughan. “It has fouled the birds and really gotten into the feathers.”
The mystery substance is not petroleum and it is not hazardous to humans, Hughan said. But officials still do not know what it is and have not encountered it in the past.
“This isn’t CSI on television where lab results come back in a few minutes,” said Hughan. “It’s going to be several days before we get the results.”
Technicians are analyzing the substance and wildlife officials are performing necropsies on the birds to gather evidence. Hughan says that it if someone is responsible for dumping something in the Bay that caused this, they will be prosecuted.
The dead and injured birds began showing up at the marina last Friday, Hughan said. He added that the number of affected birds found each day since seems to be slowing down as if the substance has subsided on its own, so no clean up effort has been launched, just the bird rescue.
“Our team is out there on the ground with their boots in the mud to help the birds,” said Hughan.
Buffleheads, Horned Grebes, Surf Scoters, and Common Goldeneyes are the types of birds that are being treated most frequently, according to Fish and Wildlife.
They are being sent to a triage center set up at the Hayward shoreline before being sent to be cleaned and treated at the International Bird Rescue Center in Fairfield.
San Leandro resident John Watson parks his mobile home at the marina most days and on Saturday, he spotted a duck covered in the gunk. He took it inside and said that the bird was friendly while he cleaned off the goo and nursed it back to health.
“I was happy to help, it was sweet little guy who laid his head on my arm,” said Watson.
Volunteers from the International Bird Rescue Center are combing the marina for the next few days to locate any more sick or dead birds.