Turtle being released after being cleaned from the Mayflower, Arkansas oil spill. (Photo: Steve Payne, THV 11)
MAYFLOWER, Ark. (KTHV) - Some animals affected by the ExxonMobil oil spill in Mayflower went back into the wild Monday afternoon. They had been covered in heavy crude oil after a pipeline ruptured in the Faulkner County city more than a week ago.
Exxon contracted Wildlife Response Services to rehabilitate the oily animals. Now, after being treated, some of them are going back into their natural habitat.
On Monday, a handful of turtles, a lizard, and two raccoons were released back into the wild. But before they were well enough to get back out on their own, the wildlife workers spent time giving them some extra TLC.
"(The animals) are given a medical exam and put into an area where they can stay nice and calm," explained Rhonda Myrgatroyt, the rehab center's director.
She said initially the animals are left alone, in order to recover from the stress of being transported from their home to the center. After rest, they are bathed and cleaned using a combination of a common household product and a specialized cleaning agent for the oil.
"Dawn (soap) of course!" she responded when asked what is used to clean the animals. "However, Dawn doesn't take care of everything. We like to break the oil down before we use the Dawn, so we're using Methylsoyate."
Exxon's biologist, Rich Woods, estimates that crews have treated about 80 affected animals as a result of the oil spill; at least 15 of them have died.
"We're seeing about 20 birds," Woods said. "We're seeing about 40 turtles, and probably the ballpark of twenty-plus snakes."
He also adds that the response unit is using tactics to keep other animals from venturing into the spill zone.
"We're using balloons, we're using scarecrows and what's called mylar ribbon, which rattles, makes a noise and flashes, it's also called flash tape," Woods explained.
Animal response crews said it will take another two weeks for the oil-covered ducks to be released, since they have to rebuild a waterproof coating on their feathers.