Future unknown for animals released after oil spill

By Greg Higgins
August 7, 2016 - 9:15am Updated: August 7, 2016 - 3:49pm

It’s unclear how long animals released back into the wild after oil rehabilitation will survive.

Three Canadian Geese and two ducks were released into Rush Lake in Maidstone on Saturday, Aug. 6. They had been cared for by Focus Wildlife Canada, who were brought in by Husky Energy to help animals affected by the Husky oil spill.

Chris Battaglia, president of Focus Wildlife Canada, said while 80 per cent of animals rescued survive the rehabilitation process, their lifespan in the wild is tougher to determine due to the effects of oil.

“When birds preen their feathers they hook together like shingles on a roof and won’t let any water contact the skin. The oil acts like gum on Velcro, it can’t stick together. When that happens it would be like putting a hole in a sleeping bag and using it out in the rain. Birds don’t have a fat layer so they get cold,” Battaglia said.

Hypothermia is what kills birds, according to Battaglia.

He said the window of opportunity to treat animals is very small, but since this spill happened in the summer animals were able to survive longer.

The released birds won’t be tracked in the wild. Battaglia said they normally place band transmitters on birds, but they didn’t this time because they want to get the animals released as soon as possible.

If the animals stayed in rehab for too long they would likely develop secondary problems and have to be put down, Battaglia said.

Several beavers and a Great Blue Heron are still set to be released.



Greg Higgins is battlefordsNOW's city municipal affairs and health reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] or tweet him @realgreghiggins. 

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