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Tribune Editorial: Effects of oil spill not limited to humans

Resembling one of its dinosaur ancestors trapped in a tar pit, a brown pelican, covered with oil, rises up out of petroleum-saturated water to make a desperate cry.

It's a scene captured Thursday on East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast by Associated Press photographer Charlie Riedel.

It will be repeated more and more frequently on more and more beaches around the Gulf of Mexico in the weeks and months to come.

The spill caused by the Deep Horizon explosion will cost billions, will devastate industries and families and may impact the health of those attempting to clean it up.

Horrible as those prospects are, those problems affect people.

They may not like it, but they have the ability to understand what's happening and why it's happening.

That pelican and all the other birds, fish and aquatic mammals that run afoul of the oil spill as it spreads have no way to comprehend what's happening to them.

Imagine walking down a sidewalk and suddenly being engulfed by something -- something shapeless, of an unusual consistency.

It makes movement difficult or impossible, impairs vision and stings the eyes and fills the nostrils and mouth, making breathing difficult, possibly poisoning its startled, uncomprehending victims.

That's probably what that brown pelican feels.

And his experience will be repeated millions of times.

People have to be the first priority in this and any other disaster.

Residents of the Gulf region, fishermen and those involved in the tourism industry will be affected now and for years to come.

But so will creatures like that pelican.

And they deserve some of our sympathy and some of our help.

You, the people of west central Minnesota, have shown many times in the past that you're willing to help when disaster strikes.

You've helped your neighbors when floods and tornadoes struck. Some of you have already been to the Gulf region to help after Hurricane Katrina.

Many who couldn't help personally have helped out financially.

Groups working to help animals affected the spill include the Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation and Save Our Seabirds.

Maybe there's some way you can help.