Three birds drenched in oil have been brought in for treatment at an animal shelter near the site of a pipeline leak that spilled 200,000 litres of oil and chemicals into the North Saskatchewan River on Thursday.

One of the birds, a sparrow, died. A Canada goose and a great blue heron are still being treated. All three were found near the initial spill site.

Wildlife rehabilitation workers travelled from Saskatoon on Saturday to help the Lend A Paw Animal Rescue, which has set up a triage station at a kennel in Maidstone, Sask., about 220 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

Drifting downstream

An oil plume is travelling down the river after a pipeline break in the area, reported by Husky Energy on Thursday. Containment booms have been set up in several locations downstream of the spill, but one reportedly breached on Saturday.

Canada Goose Oil Spill

Wildlife rehabilitation workers hold an oil-covered Canada goose at Maidstone, Sask., near the site of a Husky Energy oil pipeline leak. (Submitted by Wendy Wandler )

Jan Shadick, from Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation in Saskatoon, said the oily substance covering the birds was extremely thick and bitumen-like.

"They are completely still covered. We have to get fluids in them and food and stabilize them before we can begin the washing process," she said.

She said that would involve using a mineral oil to wash the birds before rinsing them.

Shadick expects to find out if there are more birds that need treatment, saying a contractor for Husky Energy will be searching in the field.

'Overwhelmingly sad' 

Great blue heron oil spill Maidstone, Saskatchewan

A great blue heron brought in for treatment at Maidstone, Sask., near the site of a pipeline leak that spilled more than 200,000 litres of oil into the North Saskatchewan River. (Submitted by Wendy Wandler )

Shadick said treating the birds that have been recovered, and the possibility of many more birds needing treatment, filled her with "great sadness."

"For me, it's just really overwhelmingly sad to see these birds drenched in this black oil and know that I have to wait to wash them and do something about it. And to just see the struggle, I guess, in their eyes," she said.

"Perhaps it's the potential that there are hundreds and hundreds of them and my, at the moment, sense of helplessness at [not] being able to fix it immediately."

Cleanup complete

On Sunday Husky Energy said cleanup of the site is complete and it's working with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan.

The company urges anyone who finds an impacted animal or bird to call Husky's 24-hour emergency line at 1-877-262-2111.

According to Husky, booms have been set up at the following locations:

  • Two at the City of North Battleford, with one at the water intake
  • About 50 kilometres downstream from North Battleford
  • Near the Paynton ferry crossing
  • At the water intake at the City of Prince Albert

It said water monitoring and sample testing were being carried out, as well as surveillance by air, on the ground and on the water. 

Assessment of additional booms and recovery actions continue, Husky added.