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Published On: Sun, Dec 8th, 2013

New York: Hundreds of loons, ducks fall victim to Type E botulism on Lake Ontario

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced Friday the death of hundreds of migratory birds on the eastern basin of Lake Ontario, blaming it on Type E botulism.

Common loon Image/William W Dunmire-NPS

Common loon
Image/William W Dunmire-NPS

According to a DEC press release, reports from the public and field investigations by DEC crews indicate that at least 200-300 common loons have washed ashore along Jefferson and northern Oswego County shorelines. The loon deaths were all attributable to type E botulism. Long-tailed ducks, grebes and gulls have also been found.

Despite being an annual event  in one or more of the Great Lakes since the late 1990s, it’s been seven years since so many loons have been reported killed on Lake Ontario.

To date in 2013, all known botulism mortality in diving birds in New York has been confined to the eastern basin of Lake Ontario.

Type E botulism is caused by a bacterial toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum, a widespread bacterium in the sediments of the Great Lakes.

According to the USGS National Wildlife Center:

Avian botulism is a paralytic disease caused by ingestion of a toxin produced by the bacteria, Clostridium botulinum. This bacteria is widespread in soil and requires warm temperatures, a protein source and an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment in order to become active and produce toxin. Decomposing vegetation and invertebrates combined with warm temperatures can provide ideal conditions for the botulism bacteria to activate and produce toxin. There are several types of toxin produced by strains of this bacteria; birds are most commonly affected by type C (waterfowl, shorebirds, colonial waterbirds, and others) and to a lesser extent type E (gulls, loons, and others).

The public is encouraged to report dead birds to the regional DEC offices. Carcasses contain small amounts of toxin and pose some threat to animals that feed on them. DEC has removed carcasses from portions of state-owned shoreline. Shoreline residents are encouraged to bury carcasses if feasible. To report dead birds found in Jefferson County contact the DEC at 315-785-2263; to report birds found in Oswego or Cayuga counties, contact the DEC at 607-753-3095, ext 247.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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