Santa Barbara Oil Spill Rescue Mission

On May 19th, Santa Barbara underwent a tragic oil spill, costing them over 90 million dollars in clean up and repairs. The Refugio oil spill was originally caused by a ruptured pipe line. After the incident, 275 birds and mammals were found dead, although not all of these were necessarily caused by the crude oil contamination. Thankfully, 106 of these birds and mammals were rescued and are being gradually released back into the wild.

Friday, June 12th, 10 pelicans were sent santa barbara oil spillback home to Goleta Beach in U-Haul cargo vans. The pelicans took a 3-hour car ride from their care center in Los Angeles and all made the trip safe and sound. 5 of these pelicans were fitted with solar-powered satellite trackers which sit on their backs basically like miniature backpacks. These will be used to track the transition the pelicans undergo back to their normal lifestyles after the oil spill and see if they survive. These pelicans are to be tracked for the next 2 years and is sure to provide some extremely useful information to the scientists working on the project.

Although this first round of animal releases is a big step in Santa Barbara returning to normal, there is still a long ways to go. Locals continue to protest with signs reading, “No more dirty oil spills in our ocean!”, and those working at the Los Angeles care center are doing their best to rehabilitate and clean the birds and mammals as much as possible before releasing them back into their natural habitat. As much as 100,000 gallons of oil has been estimated to have been spilled so it is no surprise that the process will be a slow and difficult one. None the less, we are thrilled that so far these first 10 pelicans appear to be doing well and that our cargo vans could be of some use to them.

For more stories on the things U-Haul is doing to help others, visit our In the Community page on

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