Portland Oil Spill Threatens Birds, Coastal Wetland Habitat HADLEY, Mass., Oct. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Oil from a spill Sept. 28 in Maine's Fore River in Portland has spread into coastal marshes imperiling sensitive wildlife habitat and migratory birds, according to Deborah Anderson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Region. Oil spilled into the Fore River when the T/V Julie N struck Portland's Million Dollar Bridge, tearing gashes in the bow and releasing approximately 170,000 gallons of cargo and vessel fuel. While the wildlife rehabilitation center has treated fewer than 20 birds, the Service anticipates a higher toll during the coming days as birds eat food contaminated with oil and as birds with oil on their feathers gradually become incapacitated, Anderson said. Birds can drown or die of hypothermia from oil-matted feathers. Other wildlife in danger includes harbor seals, which have been sighted swimming in oil in the Portland Harbor area. "The good news," according to Anderson, "is that the timing of the spill, the location of the spill and weather conditions generally worked together to minimize damage to large numbers of wildlife." By late September the migration for shorebirds and wading birds such as the great blue heron has tapered off, and the second wave of migrating waterfowl has not hit its peak, so wintering birds such as black ducks and mallards have yet to arrive. Although most of the oil has been contained in the Fore River, more birds, fish and marine mammals could be affected if wind, tides and currents move the remaining oil out of the river into open sections of Casco Bay. Migratory waterfowl that feed and roost in the Fore River during migration may be in jeopardy as they arrive during the next few weeks. The Service, working with other agencies and conservation groups, had previously identified and mapped habitat with particular value for wildlife in the Portland area. The most extensive oil damage to wildlife habitat in the Fore River has occurred on the north shore in an area of wetlands that provide vital habitat for migratory birds and serve as an important overwintering area for waterfowl. Service staff is recovering oiled birds and assessing the oil's impact on wildlife, along with staff from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Maine departments of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; Marine Resources; Conservation; and Environmental Protection. "It may take months or years to fully assess the damage and understand the long-term effects of the oil spill on fish and wildlife," Anderson said. The Service requests that the public not pick up wildlife that is either dead or in distress. Instead, call the Wildlife Hotline, 207-772-9238. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Region covers 13 states from Maine to Virginia with more than 100 field offices. Headquarters for the region are located in Hadley, Mass.