MAYFLOWER, Ark. (KTHV) -- Dr. Ben Cash, with the UCA Biology Department, and some of his students were called in to help with venomous snakes covered in crude oil. Their efforts appear to be helping the animals, but they're concerned how the toxic substance could affect them down the road.
"They gave me a call to see if I would at least take some and see about cleaning them off, he said. He agreed, and now, he and his students are working to rehabilitate the reptiles. While Cash reports the roughly ten snakes that were taken in appear to be doing better, the future is of more concern.
"It's similar to the tar that's just on roads, the consistency of it is so anything it gets stuck on, it gets stuck pretty good," explained Phillip Seiwert, a UCA Graduate Student.
"Wabasca heavy crude from the tar sands of Alberta--things like Benzene, Sulfur, and natural elemental Toluene--these are all sort of organic solvents and complex aromatic hydro carbons, which are particularly concerning in that they are carbon based and can be taken up by living organisms," Dr. Cash added. It could take generations to see the potential physical effects.
Cash said scientific studies show alarming results from the byproducts of this crude.
"Problems in the development in the offspring, or literally problems with the ability to reproduce."
Dr. Cash said the animals under his care have acted sluggishly because of the oil. What would normally be a very aggressive cotton mouth snake is now very slow to react.
He also said he and his students were not allowed to investigate the neighborhood or actual spill zone; the animals were brought to them.