Scientists are investigating a mysterious slime that’s coating and killing San Francisco sea birds. First seen last Friday, the goop is coating hundreds of sea birds and killing “scores” of them, according to Reuters. Officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are looking into the matter, with initial field testing of the substance coming back negative for petroleum. They’re hoping a more comprehensive laboratory analysis will give some more conclusive results.

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The colorless, odorless goop is killing the birds by coating their feathers and making them unable to insulate themselves from the cold, which is leading to hypothermia. Rescue teams from two private volunteer groups have managed to catch and clean upwards of 300 of the birds, ultimately saving their lives, with hopes of returning them to the wild. More than 100 of the ocean-going birds, such as sand pipers, have already perished.

“This has been incredibly difficult and taken a lot of time per bird,” said Rebecca Dmytryk of Wildlife Emergency Services, one of the two rescue groups.

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According to Andrew Hughan of the Department of Fish and Wildlife the goop seems is taking a long time to dissipate from the water. “It was thick enough to see in the water for a few days and now you can’t really see it unless you know where to look. We’ve never seen anything like it and neither have the bird rescuers,” Hughan told Reuters.

And the worst may be yet to come, according to Hughan. “We don’t expect more mortality from the rescued birds but many more birds are out there that will die from exposure. This issue has tremendous priority within the department.”

Via Reuters

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