Birds being treated after car crash causes oil spill in Omaha lake

The organization was asked to care for the impacted wildlife around the lake by the company that is cleaning up the spill
A Wednesday car crash has led to dozens of birds being treated by the Nebraska Wildlife Rehab.
Published: Aug. 7, 2022 at 10:07 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 8, 2022 at 3:26 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A Wednesday car crash has led to dozens of birds being treated by the Nebraska Wildlife Rehab.

“Something fell off the truck that contained mineral oil and the mineral oil, unfortunately, went down the storm drainage sewer and that storm drainage empties out into Lakeside lake,” says Laura Stastny with Nebraska Wildlife Rehab.

The organization was asked to care for the impacted wildlife around the lake by the company that is cleaning up the spill.

“We are out here catching the ones that are affected by the oil spill and taking them back to our wildlife center here in Omaha,” Stastny says.

“It has oiled a fair number, probably two to three dozen ducks and geese and there is still oil on the lake that is being cleaned up right now, so there is actually still the danger of new ducks and geese getting contaminated until the entire area has been cleaned up.”

The birds will be washed several times and treated for other injuries before being released. Stastny says it’s not an easy process.

“Washing birds is a multi-step process and it could take weeks to get all of the oil off of them.”

She says there are pros and cons when it comes to mineral oil. It’s far less toxic than other kinds of oil, which means the birds aren’t getting as sick from it as they would with petroleum oils.

However, that makes the birds harder to catch, she says, since they’re still relatively healthy and still able to move quickly.

“So what we say is, if you’ve ever heard of a wild goose chase, that is what our staff is doing out here at Lakeside,” Stastny jokes.

“We love the geese and the ducks and we like to take care of them as best we can,” says Tim Balvanz.

Balvanz and his wife live nearby and often walk the trail to feed the birds.

“We were unaware of it but once I came down and started talking to them, I could smell the oil and stuff.”

The spill is in the process of being cleaned up, but it could take several weeks. So far, Nebraska Wildlife Rehab has caught 12 birds but expects to treat two to three dozen more.

“There will be hundreds of staff hours that go into washing and maintaining the health of these birds before they can be released back into the wild.”

Most of the birds that surround the lake are wild, but there are domestic birds that have been dumped. Stastny says domestic birds stay at the Lakeside lake all year round because it’s aerated, meaning they still have access to the water even in the winter.

However, after many years, this winter will be the first that the lake is not aerated. Stastny’s team was set to come to the lake this fall to capture the domestic birds and find rescue farms or new homes for them since they can’t fly and aren’t able to migrate to a new lake once Lakeside freezes over.

The oil spill gave them a head start on their plan.

For those that want to help Stastny and her team at Nebraska Wildlife rescue, donations can be made and go directly toward the care of the birds.

They also say for neighbors who live nearby and see impacted birds, do not chase them.

They say only to pick the birds up if they are visibly ill and easy to approach. They can be dropped off at the wildlife center at 9777 M Street.

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