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Oil-soaked ducks plucked from Alta. tailings pond may return to wild

EDMONTON - An organization involved in emergency wildlife rescues says some ducks recovered from an oilsands tailings pond in northern Alberta can be returned to the wild, if they meet stringent release standards.


EDMONTON - An organization involved in emergency wildlife rescues says some ducks recovered from an oilsands tailings pond in northern Alberta can be returned to the wild, if they meet stringent release standards.

Coleen Doucette of Focus Wildlife said Sunday the group has been contracted by Syncrude Canada Ltd. to manage the care of birds recovered from the company's pond where hundreds of ducks perished near Fort McMurray last week.

"We want to help industry become very good at protecting wildlife, that's what Focus Wildlife Canada's big goal is here, especially in Alberta with such a growing industry. We want to partner with them so this doesn't continue happening."

Doucette says four birds currently being treated in Edmonton are heavily oiled but are in stable condition.

"Because we have coots and mallards, there's a very good chance they can recover. Different species have different levels of hardiness, these two species are fairly hardy birds, so we feel they have a very good prognosis."

The birds can be returned to nature if they meet strict release criteria - if not, they will be euthanized, she said.

"They have to be 100 per cent waterproof and in very good medical condition. Absolutely they can survive, we have good success with getting birds back out."

Syncrude is paying for the rehabilitation work and Doucette expects the bill will be in the "low thousands of dollars."

She said Alberta does not have the facilities to handle oil-soaked animals that require specialized care, and her for-profit group would like to assist in setting up one in the province.

Syncrude Canada took out full-page advertisements in several daily newspapers on Saturday apologizing for the birds' deaths and promising to improve operations so it doesn't reoccur.

Premier Ed Stelmach said the investigation is continuing into what happened.

"I certainly thank them for the apology they gave the print media but we will continue the investigation until we find out what happened and once the investigation is complete we'll communicate that with Albertans and also at the same time ensure that it doesn't happen again," he told the Calgary Sun before taking part in a charity event in Calgary.

About 500 birds died after landing on a toxic wastewater pond near Fort McMurray, Alta. last week.

Noise-making cannons are usually in place to deter flocks of migratory birds from landing on the toxic ponds, but Syncrude officials have said that due to a heavy winter snowstorm last month, company employees couldn't properly deploy them.

 
 
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