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Yellowstone River oil spill takes toll on wildlife

Wildlife officials captured an oiled hawk Tuesday and were trying to capture more than a dozen other animals that might have been harmed by a broken Exxon Mobil pipeline that spilled an estimated 1000 barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that an animal rescue team on Tuesday captured a Cooper's hawk that had been oiled and hoped to rehabilitate it.

The wildlife service had previously said that 19 oiled animals have been seen but not yet captured, including a bald eagle. Biologists do not believe the bald eagle will survive the winter unless it is cleaned, Fish and Wildlife's Karen Nelson said

Crews have collected 10 dead animals for analysis, and another five have been captured for cleaning and care.

Most of the animals affected are various types of birds and fish but also include a fox and beaver.

As the wildlife tally from the spill increased, authorities also faced a new challenge in efforts to clean up fouled shorelines and islands on the Yellowstone.

Montana Department of Environmental Quality Deputy Director Tom Livers said pockets of oil have been trapped in many of the hundreds of log jams left behind from record spring floods.

Officials are weighing options ranging from removing oil-stained log jams with helicopters to burning them. Livers said setting the piles of wood and other flood debris would be a last resort.

"As we're starting to get access to those islands, this is going to be one of the most challenging problems to solve," Livers said.

There are at least a couple hundred of log jams in the most heavily contaminated areas, though not all are oiled, he said.

The pipe that runs under the waterway near Billings failed July 1.

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