Local birds affected by oil being helped back to migration pattern

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Two adult birds and several goslings and ducklings have now died after complications because of the oil pipeline spill in Salt Lake City.

However, caretakers at Hogle Zoo have been able to save close to 200 of them. They're doing so well, most of them will be taken to Delta this Friday.

There is a water fowl sanctuary in Delta where geese can get back to a migration pattern. That has been a problem here in Salt Lake and other urban areas where geese come and don't leave.

In fact, the geese saved at Liberty Park were scheduled to be rounded up the day after the oil spill. Now, after a good scrubbing, they're going to be on their way.

Looking at them now, you'd never know just a few days ago the geese were covered in oil.

Many geese have become urbanized and stay in areas that aren't the best for them, like city golf courses. They will be taken to a wildlife sanctuary where they can be wild again.

"The zoo has done a fantastic job of rehabbing these animals," said Mike Roach, a conservation officer with the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Back on Saturday, while catching the geese from Liberty Park, he wasn't sure how many would make it.

"Most of the birds are doing well," Roach said. "We have had a few mortalities. I think two of the adult birds have died so far."

Still, 180 birds have been saved. They're going to be taken to Clear Lake in Delta to a wildlife sanctuary where they can be wild again.

"That's what the bird is supposed to be doing," Roach said. "It's not supposed to be an urban bird here in Salt Lake."

That, though, has been a big problem. The DWR says a lot of geese have become urbanized and stay in areas that aren't the best for them, like a golf course in Riverton.

This past Friday, DWR officers and volunteers captured geese to be taken to Delta.

"The place would be absolutely overrun by birds if we didn't do anything," said DWR office Rich Hansen.

Hansen says more and more geese are taking over golf courses, landing on rooftops and becoming a nuisance.

"We've probably hit about 30 places so far," he said. "We've taken over 1,000 geese out of the city so far and we expect to get that number to 1,800 by Sunday."

Sunday was when these geese were supposed to be taken from Liberty Park. Unfortunately for them, it was a day too late.

Soon, they'll be on their way.

"Obviously, the further we can get them away to safety, to a wildlife, water fowl habitat area, the better chances we can get them to go to a normal migration pattern," Roach said.

The geese at Hogle Zoo are scheduled to leave this Friday starting at 9 a.m. The ducks, once animal workers know they will be okay, will be returned to Liberty Park.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com


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