There has recently been a large increase in dead waterfowl in the City of Lethbridge. This includes areas near Henderson Lake and in the river bottom by the High Level Bridge. Dr. Everett Hanna an instructor at the School of Environmental Sciences at the Lethbridge College, explained what he thinks is killing off so many of the birds.
“I would say across the board there’s many reasons, potentially, but likely the higher, highest probability cause, especially with geese right now is highly pathogenic avian influenza. There’s an outbreak of the H5N1 strain currently underway. We might be a bit on the tail end of the spike, though if it gets cold again, it’s likely to sort of reemerge. There are other diseases in previous years that we’ve tracked with the city and some other authorities that sort of monitor wildlife health, such as aspergillosis, which is a fungal infection in the respiratory system of birds. So I don’t want to say it’s H5N1 across the board, but better than not, the chances with geese, especially, that it is.”
Hanna says he started with surveillance working in cooperation with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative in Calgary. Samples of the waterfowl were collected in December and January and sent off to labs for a necropsy.
The college is also using drones to survey the river bottom to find out the exact number of dead waterfowl.
“I kind of doubt it would be greater than 5,000, but in that 3,000 range is maybe not unlikely,” stated Hanna.
Hanna says there is potential for avian influenza to affect humans. He also mentioned that there have been cases of the flu hitting mammals like black bears, foxes and skunks.
If you see a dead bird not to touch it with your bare hands as to avoid the risk of transmission.
You can report dead waterfowl to the Alberta government at 310-0000.