60 ducks and 1 goose in Chesapeake – 08/15/2005

  • October 30, 2013 at 7:23 pm #891

    60 ducks, goose found dead on Havre de Grace shore


    Experts suspect toxic mix resulting from heat, runoff

    By Candus Thomson
    Sun Staff
    Originally published August 10, 2005

    Water temperatures in the 90s and runoff from recent squalls might
    have combined to create a petri-dish mix of toxins that killed 60 of
    the 200 mallard ducks that live along Havre de Grace’s waterfront
    State wildlife officials say the ducks and a Canada goose were found
    dead Monday and yesterday, and they suspect that naturally occurring
    botulism is to blame.

    “It may not be that. You’re never sure. But these incidents happen
    every year around the state, mostly in the Western Shore counties
    that border the [Chesapeake] Bay. I’ve seen them many times before,”
    said Larry Hindman, waterfowl project manager for the Department of
    Natural Resources.

    Two dying ducks were taken yesterday afternoon to the Maryland
    Department of Agriculture’s Centreville Animal Health Diagnostic Lab
    for testing. Dr. William P. Higgins, director, said he would send
    blood serum samples to an out-of-state lab as part of his

    “You have to detect the toxin in the serum. You don’t see anything.
    There are no lesions or other markings,” Higgins said.

    Hindman said reports of botulism typically involve flocks in areas
    frequented by people. With its lighthouse, decoy museum and skipjack
    Martha Lewis, the promenade is a tourist attraction and gateway to
    the Susquehanna River.

    The biologist suspects that of the six types of botulism, Type C is
    responsible for the deaths. The risk to humans is negligible.

    Botulism can remain dormant in the soil for years. Under the right
    weather conditions, such as when water rises and quickly recedes, the
    spores germinate. Waterfowl nibbling on insects, mollusks and small
    shellfish containing the toxin often become ill within 48 hours.

    “We call it ‘limberneck disease’ because the toxin affects their
    legs, wings and neck. They can’t walk or fly and their wings droop
    and eventually they can’t hold their heads up,” Hindman said. “If you
    put them in the shade and give them water, sometimes they can fight
    through it.”

    Type C was first reported in California and Utah in 1910, when
    millions of birds died. The most recent major outbreak, in 1997,
    killed 1.5 million birds in Utah and Canada, according to the U.S.
    Geological Survey.

    The Chesapeake Bay wetlands and tributaries have had about 17
    outbreaks of avian botulism in the past 30 years, according to the

    Hindman said Havre de Grace officials have removed all the carcasses
    to prevent the spread of the bacteria and will continue to inspect
    the shoreline for sick birds.

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