Province investigating spike in bald eagle deaths in British Columbia
The highly contagious bird flu could affect more than farmed birds, as wildlife experts in the province say they are beginning to see the conditions of concern for bald eagles and other wild birds in the southern part -western British Columbia
Caeley Thacker, wildlife veterinarian with the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, says an interagency effort is underway with Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Ministry of Agriculture to closely monitor the current population and nests of bald eagles.
“They have 22 active nests that they are monitoring, and right now only five are still active,” Thacker told CBC. The first edition In Monday. “Last year’s report said about half of the nests monitored were active, so it’s lower this year.”
She said the province has begun to closely monitor bald eagles and collect data to find out what’s causing low nest success and why only a handful of nests have chicks.
Thacker said some birds have tested positive for avian flu, but that doesn’t appear to be the only factor contributing to the dramatic drop in the number of young eagles in the province’s southwest, as well as the spike in reports of dead birds.
“Other factors could be the weather. We have a particularly cold and wet spring, but we [also] need to further examine what is happening with the food source. We don’t know exactly what’s going on yet.”
She said predatory species like eagles and other raptors are particularly susceptible to bird flu because they could consume an infected carcass or bird alive.
“Last week we tested about 40 eagles, and we had 10 positives for this strain of highly pathogenic avian flu.”
As spring migration continues, she said northern jurisdictions are also seeing more birds infected with bird flu.
The province said in a written statement it had collected 47 dead eagles since February, 12 of which tested positive for avian flu.
Mill Lake a ‘complete disaster’
Elizabeth Melnick, the founder of Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center in Abbotsford, says the number of calls and reports of Canada geese and goslings with bird flu symptoms in Mill Lake began to skyrocket in late May and June. .
She said things had slowed down over the past two weeks, but she had never seen the virus affect so many wild birds.
“People were saying there were dead geese littered all over the field, and it was really, really bad,” Melnick told CBC News. “It was mostly Mill Lake.”
The lake near the Trans-Canada Highway in Abbotsford is a popular community area, Melnick said, with a nature trail around the water, a family-friendly picnic and play area and an outdoor pool.
She said the center received reports of dead geese up to four times a day in June.
“Mill Lake has been a complete disaster. We’ve had so many calls from dead and dying Canada geese. We have babies and frequent feeders in that area, and the phones have never stopped,” Melnick said.
She said the center had also received two ducks from Aldergrove which had tested positive for bird flu and a great blue heron from Chilliwack.
“It’s always the same symptoms. Head shaking, stargazing, it’s all neurological. The goslings also had snow-white eyes, and they were also lethargic.”
Keep the infection out of the environment
While outbreaks are easier to sustain in an agricultural setting, not much can be done for wild birds, Thacker says, so the best thing we can do is prevent infection from the environment.
“The best thing we can do is remove the carcasses from the landscape and prevent the birds from congregating as much as possible,” she said.
She said there had been a decline in eagles on the west coast since last year.
“We need to understand what is causing this and what we can do about it, if anything.”
Although bird flu can be difficult to spot, she said birders can watch out for swollen eyes or heads and lethargic behavior.