Only two Canada geese survived after a flock of 15 landed in the lake pit at the La Brea Tar Pits late last month, according to the International Bird Rescue.
The incident occurred on July 31, when the geese mistakenly landed in the asphalt, the lowest grade of crude oil.
Seven birds that suffered heavy oiling and burns survived and were taken to the Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center in San Pedro for care.
“On arrival, the birds were listless and unable to stand, and so heavily covered in tar that they were barely recognizable,” the organization detailed on its website. “Our skilled staff quickly acted to remove enough tar to allow the birds to eat, breathe and defecate, then medically stabilized them before a more thorough washing.”
An additional five geese died after arriving at the center, while the other two are continuing to recover from burns and feather loss.
The organization explained that wild and domestic animals can develop a condition called capture myopathy when undergoing severe stress and muscle damage can result from exertion or struggling. The birds that were rescued and taken to the center were suffering from capture myopathy as a result of trying to free themselves from the tar, and one had a broken leg due to the struggle, officials explained.
The surviving geese are recovering from capture myopathy and are regaining the strength to stand on their own, according to the organization.
Every day their wings are being checked and they’re taking medication.
One of the two geese is now able to recover in an outdoor enclosure, while the second underwent surgery for a severe secondary injury, officials said.
“One of the surviving birds had burns that were so severe they were down to the bone. I’ve done a skin graft on that bird; I have no idea how that’s going to turn out, but we’re hoping for the best,” Doctor Rebecca Duerr of International Bird Rescue detailed.
The goal is to eventually released the birds back into the wild.
“It’s heartbreaking to see accidents like this occur,” JD Bergeron, CEO of Bird Rescue, said. “Birds in a changing world face dwindling natural habitat and lack of habitat is a big problem for the wild animals that call Los Angeles home. It is natural for animals to become trapped in the tar, but in a huge city with little wildlife habitat, the lake can look very attractive to animals. The Lake Pit was created by people mining for asphalt and still presents a great risk to wildlife.”
While the lake pit in front of the museum is fenced off to the public, there is nothing in place to discourage birds from flying in, the organization argued.
“Bird Rescue consults with Wildlife Responsibility partners to deter wild birds from these types of threats. The best case scenario is to prevent these injuries from happening.” Bergeron said. “Until then, we rely on public support to pay for extensive medical care and costly treatments.”