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Montana Oil Spill Spares Most Animals—So Far

The HSUS is helping other groups with animal rescue along the Yellowstone River

  • Rescue workers decontaminated a goose and a Cooper's hawk and released both. iStockphoto

by Julie Hauserman

High flood waters and swift current seem to have spared much of the wildlife along the Yellowstone River, the site of an oil spill from a pipeline in the first hours of this month.

The Humane Society of the United States is in Montana working with ExxonMobil, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and International Bird Rescue, the contractor handling spill response, to assist in rescuing and helping animals affected by the spill.

The oil was carried swiftly downstream on the 100-year flood stage waters when it spilled July 1 at 2 a.m. from ExxonMobil's pipeline, said The HSUS director of wildlife response, Dave Pauli, who provided logistical support on the scene.

"It went down the main channel of the river with pretty good velocity," said Pauli.

The HSUS was initially contacted by the USFWS, and has provided supplies, logistical support, and local networking assistance.

Scope of damage still unknown

Only a few oily birds have been rescued so far. Pauli helped catch a goose and a Cooper's hawk, who were both decontaminated and released back into the wild.

More will be known about the extent of the spill when river levels start declining, Pauli said.

"We don't know if we will start seeing a lot of mammals with oil impacts," Pauli said. "If oil pools along the river don't get properly cleaned, we may see raccoons, muskrats, and beavers. We hope we don't."

The HSUS continues to offer logistical support to help affected animals as the cleanup continues.

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