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Fargo companies offer oil pit deterrent

FARGO (AP) -- Two Fargo-based companies say they can help save the lives of birds and keep oil companies out of court.

Representatives of Bird Bright, which makes an ultraviolet paint, and Flock Buster, which sells a repellent, are pushing their products in the wake of federal charges filed against seven oil companies after 28 dead birds were found in western North Dakota oil pits.

Wildlife officials say they haven't had a chance to look into whether either of the products could serve as a possible deterrent to keep migratory birds out of sludge-filled pits. But they're willing to listen.

"We've addressed a lot of different techniques, like hazing, flagging, strobes and propane cannons," said Micah Reuber, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist in North Dakota. "These ideas are new ones on me."

Court filings by the Fish and Wildlife Service show that 500,000 to 1 million birds are killed annually across the United States as the result of oilfield production.

All seven companies charged in the North Dakota case previously have been fined for violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The law does not require prosecutors to show the companies were negligent or intended to do anything wrong to win a conviction.

State law requires that an oil pit be fenced off and have a net stretched across its surface if it's open for more than three months. Scott Butz, the maker of Bird Bright, said the reflective coating on his paint would make the screens more effective.

"I'm just asking that they put it on a few fences and test it. That's all you can do," Butz said.

Flock Buster originally was designed to keep blackbirds away from sunflower fields. The non-toxic, viscous liquid is sprayed on crops and has four different tastes and three smells meant to be unpleasant to the birds, said Barb Howard, company spokeswoman.

"Birds are very habitual," Howard said. "They like to have a comfortable place where there is food and water."

Kevin Kading, private land section leader for the state Game and Fish Department, said he plans to do some testing with Flock Buster on keep geese at bay.

"I don't deal with oil-pit activity, but that seems like something that Flock Buster should be interested in," he said.

Cost of using each product would likely be at least $10,000 for application around oil pits.

"For what they're making, that's cheap to them," Butz said, referring to the oil companies. "What do lawsuits cost you? These companies have to make an effort to show they're trying to do something about this."