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Geese covered in oil; Four birds shunned by other fowl

The Sarnia Observer (Canada)

Geese covered in oil; Four birds shunned by other fowl

Posted By JACK POIRIER

Posted 1 day ago

Most days they spend huddled close together, eating grass in a scene that would make Norman Rockwell smile.

Until you get close enough to notice these Canada geese are covered with a black, oil-like discolouration.

“It’s a sad sight,” said Shell Sarnia refinery spokesperson Kristina Zimmer.

The four geese have taken up refuge on the refinery’s front lawn on the St. Clair Parkway near Corunna. Company officials noticed the first fowl on April 21.

Most days, the geese can be seen eating beneath a large willow tree near Talfourd Creek, which empties into the St. Clair River.

Occasionally, one of the birds can be seen nipping at itself, as if trying to clean its feathers. The quartet appeared to be shunned by other geese.

“It’s an unusual situation for us. No one wants to look out a window and see an animal covered in oil,” Zimmer said.

Company staff have contacted wildlife and environment ministry officials to determine how to best deal with the situation.

Zimmer said Shell called in a wildlife trapper to capture the birds so they could be cleaned and returned to the wild. But they wouldn’t co-operate.

“The birds are still mobile. Any time they were approached they would fly away.”

So, staff continue to monitor their health daily, ensuring the birds are eating.

But how they came in contact with the oil is a mystery, Zimmer said, adding the refinery hasn’t had any incidents involving a release of oil.

Shell’s St. Clair Township facility does have areas where there is open oil, but Zimmer doubts the birds touched down in those deposits.

“It looks like the oil has been sprayed on them,” she said.

Had the fowl landed in the oil deposits onsite, it’s doubtful they would be able to fly out, she added.

As a precaution, Shell has covered each of the open oil areas with a special netting to deter any wildlife.

Zimmer said the Ministry of the Environment will be sending a biologist.

“We really feel badly for (the geese). I feel like we’ve been doing everything we can for them.”

Tami Holmes, director for the Sarnia and District Humane Society, said staff are prepared to clean the birds if they can be caught.

If the substance is oil-based, Holmes said a simple solution of Dawn dish soap and water would do the trick.

“It’s not a simple job because you have to be quite careful not to damage the feathers.”

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