A female mallard duck is the only surviving creature that took a dip in Syncrude’s toxic tailings pond that will live to tell the tale.

In total, 18 birds have been brought to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton from different tailings ponds in the Fort McMurray area. Only six have survived.

“I certainly hope that they’ll make a full recovery, but I can’t guarantee that they will,” said Coleen Doucette, operations manager of Focus Wildlife Emergency Response. “The research has shown that animals can live for years and years after going through something like this.”


Doucette and a full staff of wildlife recovery specialists have been working around the clock to clean and waterproof the remaining four loons and two ducks, all of which have now been through the cleaning process. If all survive, they should be ready to be released back into the wild within one to two weeks.

She said that the death toll might not have been as high were there adequate facilities to clean and care for the birds as they were pulled from the toxic sludge, adding that though the birds were transported quickly, it wasn’t quickly enough for those that perished.

Currently, she said, Focus staff are working with veterinarians in Fort McMurray to establish a field stabilization location for hands-on care in the area.

But in the meantime, the culprit companies who created the inhabitable water sources are responsible for footing the cleaning and medical bills.

“It could be tens of thousands of dollars,” Doucette said.

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