U.S. Wildlife Authorities Join State in Investigation of Owl Deaths at Oil Field Site

  • Joe Wertz
Officials found several dead birds in an open tank at this oilfield site in northwest Oklahoma.

Provided / Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Officials found several dead birds in this open saltwater tank at an oilfield site in northwest Oklahoma.

Federal authorities have joined state officials in an investigation of bird deaths at a neglected oil field site in northwestern Oklahoma.

Two oil-covered barn owls were found along with several other dead birds. The owls were taken in by a Fairview caretaker licensed to handle non-migratory birds, but both owls later died, the Enid News & Eagle and Associated Press report.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are investigating the bird deaths. Neither agency will release details until the investigation is complete, the AP reports.

Micah Holmes, spokesman for the Department of Wildlife Conservation, said once the agency’s report is ready, it will be turned over to prosecutors. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could also decide to take over the case, Holmes said.

After the dead birds were found in an uncovered saltwater tank, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission on July 22 inspected the site, which is operated by a Cushing energy company. Commission inspectors found a litany of safety and environmental violations at the site, including rusty, leaking equipment and soil contaminated with oil.

The commission gave the operator until Aug. 23 to fix the problems and bring the site into compliance, records show.