Wildlife endangered by fuel spill from I-81 crash

At least a dozen wild birds have died as the result of a fuel spill that reached Wildwood Lake Sanctuary in Harrisburg when a tanker truck overturned and crashed along Interstate 81, according to Dauphin County officials.

Carl Dickson, director of Dauphin County Parks and Recreation, said the birds had been recovered from the park after about 2,000 gallons of spilled diesel fuel went into a storm drain and reached Paxton Creek and Wildwood Lake.

Pennsylvania Game Commission field officers had responded to help with the rescue efforts, and paddled their way around the lake Thursday to rescue the fuel-coated ducklings and goslings.

The park, which lies just northwest of the interchange where the
tanker overturned, has been closed until further notice while the
cleanup and wildlife rescue efforts continue.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, meanwhile, has set up a propane-powered air cannon that creates intermittent sound blasts in an attempt to stop wildlife from entering the contaminated portion of the wetland.

Wildwood, which is owned and managed by Dauphin County, is used regularly during the spring by feeding great egrets and black-crowned night-herons, both of which are state endangered species, according to the Game Commission.

The commission said Wildwood also has the largest concentration in Pennsylvania of American lotus, a state endangered plant, and is home to substantial numbers of muskrats and waterfowl; including mallards, wood ducks and Canada geese.

Rich Palmer, director of the Game Commission's Bureau of Wildlife Protection, said the public can help in the recovery efforts by reporting any wild birds or mammals that appear to be coated with oil.

Palmer said reporting sightings could increase the animal's chance of survival, and will allow the Game Commission to better determine how many animals were affected by the spill.

Anyone who sees wildlife affected by the spill may call the Game Commission's southeast regional office at 610-926-3136.

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