Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Possible avian cholera in Arkansas

More than 1,000 Snow Geese and Ross's Geese have died at Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Refuge biologists found the sick and dead birds on Jan. 9.

Field necropsies point to avian cholera, a common infection in waterfowl. The bacterium, Pasteurella multocida, can kill in six to twelve hours after infection.

The outbreak at the refuge appears limited to Snow Geese and Ross's Geese. Project Leader Dennis Widner said, "We are doing everything possible to contain the disease outbreak by not disturbing the rest of the flock now. While we can't capture the thousands of geese here, our recovery operations are designed to not chase them away from this site. This should help reduce the chance of spreading the disease."

Snow Geese seem susceptible to the quick spread of bacterial diseases because of their rapidly increasing numbers and subsequent population concentration, the service said. The disease's fast action also might result from population concentration caused by lack of rain or other weather.

The number of dead geese at Bald Knob ranges from 1,300 to 1,500. From those birds, specimens were shipped to the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., to confirm the field diagnosis.

If you encounter a sick or dead bird, please do not touch it. Instead, contact a state, federal or tribal natural resource agency.

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