Crude or industrial oil has been ruled out, but wildlife officials and B.C. Conservation officers are still trying to figure out how some three eagles on Vancouver Island ended up with oil on their feathers. Dean Stoltz reports.
It’s meticulous work removing oil from the eagle’s feathers.
“We generally restrain the bird and use a lot of Dawn soap and water at the same body temperature as the bird.” Reg Westcott, animal care supervisor at Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) in Merville, B.C., said.
Three eagles were rescued separately last week from different places around Port Hardy and Malcolm Island. They were found with oil on their feathers, and by the time the third one came in, concerns were growing. Each had to be washed five times.
“When the third one came in I thought, OK, maybe there’s a single source of contamination out there somewhere,” Westcott said.
Officials have ruled out heavy crude or industrial oil but still don’t know what it is, adding it could even be natural.
Whatever it is, the oil was putting the bird’s life in jeopardy.
“The bird could actually probably fly a great distance but upon hitting the water, grabbing a fish or something the water would just get into the feathers and no buoyancy and probably could not get back going again,” Westcott said.
Two of the eagles survived and have already been released but the third one died from unrelated injuries.
The birds arrived at MARS during what is already a busy spring at their new, and still under construction facilities, in Merville.
“We had no way of predicting that” MARS manager Robert McLennan said.”We do get some eagles at this time of year but not that many in such a short time frame.”
“We do get some eagles at this time of year but not that many in such a short time frame.”
Two baby otters are being cared for as well and they’ll be at MARS for a full year.
“They’ll be here until next spring so they’re sort of in our intensive care area right now and we’re currently building a beautiful facility for these guys,” Westcott said.
Outside, two baby fawns are being nursed back to good health.
We do still have some finishing touches, [on the hospital] but we are operational,” McLennan said.
“We’re treating all our animals here now completely separate from the old site.”
They’ll be starting construction on an educational building this summer but still need to raise another quarter million dollars.