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Oil-Covered Owls Prompt Investigation Of ‘Neglected’ Oil Field Site

Close-up of a Pump Jack

The discovery of two barn oils coated in oil has prompted an investigation of a “neglected” oil field site in northwest Oklahoma.

Both owls died, the Enid News & Eagle reported Tuesday.

“Both of the owls have succumbed to the oil they ingested. Neither one made it, unfortunately,” the birds’ caretaker Jean Neal said. “I’m sorry about that, we really, really tried.” She said the second owl died late Saturday afternoon. “It was just heartbreaking. It’s just even hard to talk about them,” she said. Neal had said Friday that the first owl had died.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission and state Department of Wildlife Conservation are investigating a site near the Major and Garfield County lines. Inspectors found several other dead birds floating in a saltwater tank at the site, the paper reports:

A preliminary report, compiled by an Oklahoma Corporation Commission oil and gas field inspector, noted there was oil on the ground around the tank and in several other areas inside the dike. Rig anchors were not marked, and there were no Oklahoma Tax Commission numbers on the storage tanks or the meter house, the report stated.

Federal rules require saltwater tanks to be covered. The site also lacked required signage, according to the preliminary inspection report, so it’s unclear at this time who is responsible for the tanks.


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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
Joe was a founding reporter for StateImpact Oklahoma (2011-2019) covering the intersection of economic policy, energy and environment, and the residents of the state. He previously served as Managing Editor of Urban Tulsa Weekly, as the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Oklahoma Gazette and worked as a Staff Writer for The Oklahoman. Joe was a weekly arts and entertainment correspondent for KGOU from 2007-2010. He grew up in Bartlesville, Okla. and studied journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma.
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