August 7, 2016 12:41 pm
Updated: August 8, 2016 7:33 am

First batch of birds released after recovering from Husky oil spill

WATCH ABOVE: The first batch of birds was released to Rush Lake on Saturday after the animals recovered from the Husky oil spill near Maidstone, Sask. Jacqueline Wilson reports.

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Three Canada geese and two common goldeneyes were ready to spread their wings and fly Saturday.

Wildlife rehabilitators had been caring for the birds impacted by the Husky Energy oil spill that happened over two weeks ago. An estimated 250,000 litres of oil spilled into the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone, Sask., affecting not only local drinking water supplies but also birds and other wildlife.

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Chris Battaglia, response director with Focus Wildlife rehabilitation, said his crew was able to get to these animals quickly, which was vital in their survival.

READ MORE: Pipeline spills oil and water mix on farm near Swift Current, Sask.

“Actually the recovery rate once we get them to the center is usually 80 to 90 per cent chance of survival,” Battaglia said.

Despite common misconceptions, the veteran wildlife rehabilitator said it isn’t the oil itself that kills the animals, it’s the effect it has on the birds feathers.

“It disrupts the organization of their feathers. Feathers are naturally water repellent,” Battaglia explained.

“When oil gets in, it’s like getting gum in Velcro, you can’t put it back together so water is able to penetrate through.”

READ MORE: Claims centre opens for people impacted by North Saskatchewan River oil spill

When the water penetrates through, that’s when the birds and other animals like beavers get hypothermia and die.

“The window of opportunity to treat these animals is very small. If you keep them long in the rehabilitation setting they’re not used to being on land, they’re not used to being under that amount of stress, they will get secondary problems and then we have to euthanize anyways,” Battaglia said.

Focus Wildlife hopes to release a great blue heron soon and they also have four to five beavers in rehabilitation.

Husky Energy representatives were at the bird release, but declined an interview.

WATCH BELOW: Coverage of the Husky Energy oil spill near Maidstone into the North Saskatchewan River

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