From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 2 - April 3, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Ducks Dead After Flying Into Reserve Pit

by Trey Wilkinson

The controversy surrounding drilling in and around Sublette County continues and this time three mallards are the victims. Three mallards were found March 18 by Ultra Resources’ employees in a reserve pit (a water holding pit for use in drilling operations) on land in Sublette County where Ultra Resources is currently drilling.

According to Pinedale Field Manager for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Chuck Otto, there was an oil sheen on the water of the reserve pit. When the ducks landed they became covered in oil. Otto said it is most likely the ducks died from the stress of the situation and the fact that they were covered in oil.

“It’s unknown how long they were in the pit before discovery,” he said. “They were pretty weak when found.”

According to Otto, two of the ducks died relatively soon after they were taken to the vet and the third died about three days later.

Otto said the BLM asked Ultra to take a sample of their pit while the BLM also took an independent sample. At this point in time, the BLM has not received the results for the sample. “Unfortunately this type of thing does occur from time to time,” Otto said. “Migratory waterfowl are the main type of animals affected because they see the water of the pit and attempt to land thinking it’s a natural pond, but other animals have occasionally also gotten into reserve pits, up to and including livestock.”

So what caused this mishap?

“The cause in almost all instances is either fencing is not up or deterrents have not been erected,” Otto said. “We have a requirement that the gas companies ensure that birds and other animals are not allowed access to these pits. This usually involves fencing the pit and erecting flagging or netting over the top of the pit to deter birds from landing.”

Otto said in this case, the flagging had been taken down by the company and had not been re-erected when the pit was vacated.

“This is a violation of their BLM imposed stipulations, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality regulations and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the company has been given a written violation,” Otto said. Erecting and maintaining deterrents, such as flagging, is a requirement of the company’s permit.

“These are unfortunate situations and we’re working hard both independently and with the energy companies to make sure they don’t occur in the future,” Otto said.

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