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Tuesday, December 10, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Idaho reports thousands of snow geese dead from disease

Jacob Gray, Idaho Fish and Game's Mud Lake Wildlife Management Area manager collects dead snow geese at Market Lake WMA. (J. Brower)
Jacob Gray, Idaho Fish and Game's Mud Lake Wildlife Management Area manager collects dead snow geese at Market Lake WMA. (J. Brower)

WILDLIFE DISEASES -- Thousands of migrating snow geese have died in southeastern Idaho, apparently from avian cholera.

The carcasses of about 2,000 migrating snow geese were collected this weekend by Idaho Fish and Game Department workers. The birds died while stopping at Mud Lake and Market Lake Wildlife Management Areas on their way back north to their nesting grounds in Northern Alaska. 

The will be incinerated so that other predatory and scavenger birds do not ingest the deadly bacteria, wildlife officials said. 

Results are not yet back from the IDFG Wildlife Laboratory to definitively confirm avian cholera, but symptoms seem to indicate the disease.   According to the United States Geographical Survey Health Laboratory, humans are not at a high risk of infection from the bacteria causing avian cholera.

According to an agency media release posted today:

The carcasses of a small number of snow geese were first reported at Camas National Wildlife Refuge near Dubois, Idaho.  Closer inspection  on Friday found higher numbers of dead birds at the Mud Lake WMA Area near Terreton, Idaho and a lesser amount at Market Lake WMA near Roberts, Idaho.  The migratory birds were on the return leg of their migration from the southwestern United States and Mexico to their breeding grounds on the northern coast of Alaska.  It is unknown at this time where the geese may have picked up the suspected bacteria.  “Outbreaks of avian cholera have occurred sporadically in the region over the past few decades,” said Upper Snake Regional Supervisor Steve Schmidt.

According to Schmidt, “The important thing is to quickly collect as many of the carcasses as possible, to prevent other birds from feeding on the infected birds.”   In the case of Mud Lake WMA, biologists observed about twenty eagles in the vicinity of some of the carcasses.  Because of a delayed incubation period it is uncertain where these eagles might be located,  if  and when the avian cholera affects them.

Report dead birds in their locations to 208-525-7290.  

While there is little possibility of humans contracting the disease, the public is asked to not handle dead birds because of the potential for unintentionally distributing the disease to other wildlife.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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