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Local Woman Recalls Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Recovery


25 years ago, an area considered 'one of the last best places on Earth' saw destruction. An oil tanker leaked millions of gallons of oil into Alaskan waters, nearly destroying an ecosystem.

Thankfully, many scientists rushed to the area to try to save some of the wildlife. Among them was Executive Director of the Raptor Education Group in Antigo.

"It was very emotional as well as, can we do this, how can we do this, it hasn't been done before," Marge said.

Marge Gibson of the Raptor Education Group Inc. was one of the few rescuing eagles from after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Millions of gallons of was spilled in Prince William Sound, Alaska, killing hundreds of thousands of seabirds, sea otters and hundreds of bald eagles.

"The method that we ended up using was called the floating fish trap," Marge said, "and that way we could capture them on the water, and they didn't go onto the oily land and oil themselves further."

They saved hundreds, including an eagle, Qushquluk.

"Qushquluk was an amazing bird from the beginning, she was on an island, people had seen her there, and she was heavily oiled, and they knew that she had lost her mate, he had died in the oil spill, and her eggs were lost as well," Marge said, "so I was able to race up and down these cliffs, and in the end, free hand grab her just as she was about to jump in the water, which would have been the end of her."

Besides being covered in oil, Qushquluk suffered a broken wing. So Marge requested to keep the bird at REGI.

"I realized she would be an amazing research topic and she would teach us a lot about how oil impacted these birds," Marge said.

Not only did Marge help hundreds of eagles, she also paved the way for women in the field.

"I was the only woman doing raptor biology at the time in the country and so when I was asked to go to Alaska, it really surprised people that I was there."


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