A one-week old baby beaver, which was caught in the Plains Midstream Canada oil pipeline spill last June on the Red Deer River, is back in the wild.
On June 7, 2012, up to 3,000 barrels (475,000 litres) of light sour crude oil was released into the river from a ruptured pipeline about one km north of Sundre and oil travelled as far as Gleniffer Lake.
The kit named Oily was found coated in oil close to the original spill site and was taken to Medicine River Wildlife Centre.
“Oily was a teeny, weeny little guy, about 500 grams or so, when he came to us. Soaked in oil and sitting in a shoe box,” said Carol Kelly, executive director of the centre, on Tuesday.
He was released at the site of an abandoned beaver lodge near Sundre on Sunday night weighing about 25 pounds.
“He’s grown and thrived. Hates people. Totally a lovely wild beaver.”
Oily was the first victim of the oil spill. Members of the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group met Kelly in a parking lot near James River to hand him over for treatment.
The centre also took in a baby muskrat and adult beaver from the oil spill that were released back into the wild last summer. A Canada goose and baby crow did not survive.
“When we did the autopsies on them, their lungs were filled with oil. The birds got their feathers soaked that they weren’t able to swim. They tended to inhale oil as they were drowning. It was the mammals that did better.”
Kelly said she will be returning to Oily’s lodge Wednesday to check up on him. He was swimming around having a good time the last time she saw him — a big difference from when he arrived at the centre.
“He was pretty bad. For the first couple months we had him he’d gain weight and then he’d lose weight. I think he’d inhaled stuff so he had compromised lungs.”
Oily required antibiotics and a dedicated staff member helped him pull through, she said.
By the time he was released he was eating huge amounts of poplar and willow. He was also fed vegetable scraps and a small amount grain and seeds.
“He’ll probably live by himself down there until a female comes his way.”