The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) recruited dozens of workers and volunteers over the weekend to clean up some 2,000 bird carcasses after migrating snow geese fell dead from the sky.
IDFG spent Sunday night into Monday afternoon bagging and burning the infected birds, thought to have been brought down by avian cholera. The snow geese fell dead while migrating north from the southwestern part of the United States and Mexico, heading for their natural breeding grounds of Alaska’s northern shores, as the Inquisitr previously reported.
Avian cholera is thought to be to blamed for the geese falling dead. The disease is caused by Pasteurella multocida Type 1 bacteria, which survives in both water and soil for up to a period of four months. As the Rexburg Standard Journal reports, tests to confirm this hypothesis will be run over the next several months. However, if avian cholera is the cause, there are fears that 20 bald eagles seen in the area near the goose carcasses might have been infected also. Unfortunately, this will not be known for a period of up to two weeks, according to Christian Today, as the incubation period for the disease is around eight days.
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The National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) released a statement following the geese falling dead, revealing that “death may be so rapid that birds literally fall out of the sky or die while eating with no previous signs of disease.” As the Daily Mail reports, symptoms of the disease include legions, organ hemorrhages, swimming in circles, flying upside down, convulsions, matted feathers, and blood-stained droppings.
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It is not the first time that Idaho has seen geese fall dead like this, as spokesperson for the IDFG, Gregg Losinski, confirmed.
“We’ve had these kind of outbreaks sporadically across the region over the last few decades that folks here can remember. It’s not that it’s unheard of, it just doesn’t happen that often.”
Avian cholera is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases to U.S. wild waterfowl. In 2011, thousands of blackbirds died in Louisiana. Adverse weather was one consideration in that mass bird death. What is known about the present circumstances in Idaho is that the snow geese were dead before their bodies fell to the ground, given the blood surrounding the carcasses. The mass death took place near Idaho Falls, with snow goose bodies littering dozens of acres.
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There is only a slight risk of infection to humans, but IDFG is warning people who find any geese that fell dead to refrain from handling them, and to call wildlife officials instead.
[Image courtesy of IDFG]