WEYMOUTH, MASS. (WHDH) - Wildlife experts began cleaning two dozen seagulls covered in oil Thursday night, some of which succumbed to their critical injuries.

New England Wildlife Center reportedly took in 24 birds who found their way into a truck carrying used cooking oil, rendering them flightless.

“Monitoring these birds very closely will be our key focus, and just seeing how they develop over the next couple of days,” said Priya Patel, a doctor with the New England Wildlife Center.

A Grafton animal control officer was able to catch the majority of the birds and rushed them to the center in Weymouth. 

Rescuers said the birds were likely attracted to the smell of fried food.

“Seagulls are scavengers, they’re amazing at finding food, and they’re amazing at sniffing it out,” Zak Mertz said. “Our best guess is that when they see an open food source, they usually go for it, and in this case it got them into some trouble.”

It’s believed they landed in the back of the truck, where the oil soaked their feathers. With the gulls unable to fend for themselves, crews at the animal hospital helped clean their feathers and attend to those with injuries.

“We’re one of the few facilities that is set up for the washing of oiled birds, whether that be the heavier petroleums that are used in our cars and industry, or something like cooking oil,” Mertz said.

Several of the birds had severe injuries and didn’t make it.

However, the staff at the hospital said they’re hopeful the remaining seagulls will pull through. Washing each bird can take up to one hour.

“They are one of the most resilient species we do see, but this kind of contaminant on their feathers can put them in a vulnerable state,” Patel said.

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