Drought conditions are increasing the possibility of disease outbreaks in water fowl, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“The conditions that are conducive to the bacteria for avian botulism are shallow water and warm water conditions all of which we think will be more prevalent this year,” said Jeff Cann, a biologist for the CDFW.
The severe drought this year has been an issues across the state, and now biologists are worried about the effect low water will have on wetland birds. In areas like the Moss Landing Wildlife Area the water in certain areas is already starting to dry up.
“Birds are migrating down the flyway and will stop over at wetlands on the way from the north to the south and look for wetlands to stop over in,” said Cann.
If the water is low the bacteria will feed on the rotten plants, and spread when the birds group up to feast on the limited wetlands ultimately resulting in death.
“If it spreads in large groups, then removing large amounts of water fowl can be tough on their population,” said Cann.
As many as 46,000 birds have been killed in previous outbreaks in California, and although humans cannot catch the disease the CDFW says they can help prevent the spread.
“Sometimes a bird dies. One bird does not an outbreak make. But if they see four or five that have died off, the limber neck, and the flopping on water unable to fly, it’s important to tell us," said Cann.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife are asking property owners to report dead water birds they find. Removal of dead birds often helps minimize mortality and reduce the spread of disease.
To report dead birds to the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife's investigations labs, call 916-358-2790 or use the online form here.