Progress on the Yellowstone River Spill

Photo of Duane Titus, response team member from International Bird Rescue, searching for oiled wildlife off the Yellowstone River

Duane Titus of International Bird Rescue’s Emergency Response Team searches for oiled wildlife in Yellowstone River backwater.


International Bird Rescue has been working on the Silvertip Pipeline Spill Incident in Billings, Montana for a week now. The river has dropped dramatically in the last few days, and that is really helping the cleanup crews and our emergency response teams access areas that were previously unreachable. Gravel and sand bars and islands are beginning to appear. We have also had the good fortune of meeting many ranchers who own property along river and have graciously given us the access we need to assess the impact of oil on wildlife on their land. During our evaluations we have seen many clean and healthy Bald Eagles, Prairie Dogs, White Pelicans, White-tailed Deer and of course, many species of waterfowl.

To date we have only captured four oiled animals:  two toads, a snake and a juvenile Yellow Warbler. Due to the low number of oiled animals in this spill, we have set up a relatively small rehabilitation center, consisting of two trailers complete with plumbing and electricity. Small wooden pens are being set up outside to hold wildlife. The center can be expanded to meet the needs of the wildlife we encounter.

While we are not seeing many affected animals, we have identified a few heavily oiled Canada Geese. There are hundreds of geese along the river; some are very wary of people, but the ones that congregate in some of the local parks approach people to be fed. The oiled ones, unfortunately, are in the leery category, which makes our work to capture them a bit more challenging, and may entail the use of specialized equipment.

We will continue to update you as our work continues.

Jay Holcomb
Director Emeritus
International Bird Rescue

3 thoughts on “Progress on the Yellowstone River Spill”

  1. Thank you so much for all you do. This oil spills upsets me so much it makes me nauseous. I lived in Montana for 5 years and can’t think of a place where the impact on the rivers would be felt more!!!

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