Thousands of geese fall from Idaho sky in likely avian cholera outbreak

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Avian cholera is suspected in the deaths of at least 2,000 snow geese that fell dead from the sky in Idaho while migrating to nesting grounds on the northern coast of Alaska, wildlife managers said on Monday.

Dozens of Idaho department of fish and game workers and volunteers at the weekend retrieved and incinerated carcasses of snow geese found near bodies of water and a wildlife management area in the eastern part of the state, said agency spokesman Gregg Losinski.

Avian cholera is believed to be the culprit in the deaths mostly because of the way the birds died, he said.

“Basically, they just fell out of the sky,” said Losinski.

He said biologists were awaiting results from a state wildlife lab to confirm the birds died of the highly contagious disease, which is caused by bacteria that can survive in soil and water for up to four months.

 Snow geese migrate north from the American south-west and Mexico. Avian cholera is the likely culprit in the deaths of at least 2,000 of the birds in Idaho - Photograph: The Oregonian/Landov/Barcroft
Snow geese migrate north from the American south-west and Mexico. Avian cholera is the likely culprit in the deaths of at least 2,000 of the birds in Idaho – Photograph: The Oregonian/Landov/Barcroft

Humans face a small risk of contracting the disease, but the more immediate threat is to wildlife in the vicinity of contaminated carcasses, Losinski said.

About 20 bald eagles were seen near areas where snow geese carcasses littered the ground, but a lengthy incubation period makes it unclear if the eagles were infected and would carry the ailment elsewhere, said Losinski.

It was not known where the snow geese – named for their white plumage and for breeding in the far northern corners of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberia – contracted avian cholera during a migration that saw them wing north from wintering grounds in the American south-west and Mexico, he said.

Outbreaks like the one found affecting the migrating snow geese in Idaho occur periodically in the United States and elsewhere, Losinski said.

Avian cholera is the most important infectious disease affecting wild waterfowl in North America, according to the US Geological Survey.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 17 Mar 2015.

 

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Delbert Smith
Delbert Smith

Nothing to do with global warming. If you have one ounce of knowledge about snow geese you already know about the over population of snows and the destruction the birds are already doing to the arctic habit. Studies have found that more than 60 percent of the salt-marsh vegetation in La Pérouse Bay is now either destroyed or damaged to the point where it does not nourish birds. This phenomenon occurs mostly in this particular habitat: Waterfowl numbers have been rebounding in North America from lows in the 1980s. Still, the declines have far-reaching implications. “We´re not talking about one… Read more »

Lee Dusing

This is terrible! Never heard of so many just falling from the sky like that. So sad.

Anne Grice

OMG this is horrible! May be its pesticide too!! This is the sufferings of wild life which people like the USDA dont even consider as they relentlessly hunt and kill wild life. Now look at this huge disaster! May be this is a manmade problem!!

Tonia Vassila

I am so sad for this. My poor babies.

Goldi Muencz

oh no

Diane Pizza

Freaky!