December 10, 2013 at 3:56 am #1749MikeKeymaster
Hundreds Of Birds Found Dead, Dying At 2 MN Lakes
James Schugel (WCCO)
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials made a disturbing discovery in two lakes, finding hundreds of birds dead or dying.
Officials say double-crested cormorants, pelicans, ring-billed gulls and a great blue heron were found last week at Minnesota Lake in Faribault County and Pigeon Lake in Meeker County.
DNR biologists say the dead birds included 687 cormorants and 37 pelicans. DNR workers discovered the dead and dying birds while banding pelicans.
Before heading into the troubled waters of Minnesota Lake, DNR Area Wildlife Manager Joel Anderson wrapped himself in protective clothing and putting on heavy boots.
Beyond the shoreline and farther than the eye can see he’s cleaning up a small island, following the disturbing, yet mysterious discovery.
“They noticed and found a lot of dead cormorants and few pelicans,” said Anderson. On Minnesota Lake, more than 300 cormorants and more than three dozen pelicans were found dead.
Some birds were still alive, but they were suffering from a health problem. Many could not hold up their heads or breathe, and they were close to dying. Officials believe the birds had been there for several days.
“We know it’s some type of wildlife disease, but we don’t know what it is yet,” said Anderson.
Initial tests for avian influenza were negative, but officials say the cause of the bird illness hasn’t been determined yet.
The scene at Minnesota Lake is just like the one at Pigeon Lake, a hundred miles away. DNR officials found a few hundred more dead birds that had been there for two, possibly three weeks.
They think birds flying between the two lakes might have spread the disease. Right now, officials believe the problem at both lakes is related, but they’re not exactly sure.
Anderson said he will euthanize the sick animals on the island on Minnesota Lake. He and other experts don’t want more birds to come down with the same thing.
“We’re always very careful until we know what we’re dealing with. We treat it as a worst case scenario,” said John Schladweiler, a Regional Ecological Resources Manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Experts at labs in Wisconsin and Iowa are now analyzing samples DNR officials sent them. Those samples should be tested, and the outcome known in a few days.
They also have alerted the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture. The agencies are now warning local farmers to keep an eye on their poultry and turkey flocks, and to report any strange health symptoms.
Until Anderson and other experts know exactly what they’re dealing with, Minnesota Lake, a designated wildlife lake in Minnesota, is off-limits to the public.
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