December 19, 2011

Today's Wildlife Disease News Stories


Mass bird deaths bookend 2011

Photo: David Slater/Flickr
Nearly 12 months after a rash of bird bloodbaths made international news, another big avian 'Aflockalypse' has struck in southern Utah.

...The migratory birds crashed into a Walmart parking lot, football fields and various other snow-covered surfaces, which they apparently mistook for bodies of water, according to reports in the St. George Spectrum and the Associated Press. Volunteers have rescued at least 3,000 injured grebes between St. George and Cedar City, Utah, while officials say more than 1,500 may have been killed.

The grebes were most likely migrating toward Mexico for the winter, Griffin says, when they saw what seemed to be unfrozen ponds and lakes where they could rest. Failing to realize the surfaces were actually solid ground, the birds then plummeted downward in a mass accidental suicide.

Such bird die-offs aren't uncommon, as many experts explained earlier this year when thousands of red-winged blackbirds died in Arkansas, 500 more died in Louisiana, and up to 100 crows died in Sweden.

Mother Nature Network -
15 Dec 2011
R McLendon
Location: Washington County - Map It and Iron County - Map It Utah, USA

More News on Utah Incident

News about Arkansas Bird Die-Off from January 2011

Odd Cass County deer may offer clues to what ails other malformed animals here and in other states

Turns out the deer with the swollen face is not alone in Michigan. But he may provide clues about what is causing the odd malady to hit whitetail deer here and in other states.

...The deer also is similar to three animals a Michigan researcher has seen in recent years, two from Barry County in 2002 and one in Ionia County in 2004.

Thomas M. Cooley, wildlife biologist/and pathologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Disease Lab, said he has already discussed those animals with University of Georgia scientist Kevin Keel.

Cooley said the only consistent finding in the few Michigan deer his group has studied has been the presence of demodectic mange mites, spider-like bugs that spread the skin condition mange.

Kalamazoo Gazette -
13 Dec 2011
R Parker
Photo courtesy of
Location: Cass County, Michigan, USA - Map It

Toxicology results on sick fish

Fisheries Queensland has released toxicology results which find no evidence that metals or organic chemicals are causing fish disease in Gladstone Harbour.

Fisheries released the report today saying it provided results of "preliminary toxicology testing." The report only covers results from three barramundi taken from Port Alma and China Bay in September.Fisheries Queensland Habitat and Assessment General Manager John Robertson said testing on other samples was continuing.

"There is no indication from these preliminary results that organic chemicals or metals are affecting the health of fish in Gladstone Harbour, but further testing will be required due to the small sample size," Dr Robertson said.

..."While these initial toxicology results seem to indicate organic chemicals and metals did not impact the health of these fish, we are continuing to do more testing, including tests on healthy fish, to get a broader understanding of the issue."

... "The parasite that was found on some shark samples was identified as a parasitic flatworm, which has been found on sharks in other areas of Queensland, including recently in the Kolan and Fitzroy rivers. "This flatworm is a different parasite to the one found on the barramundi, which was a Neobenedenia species.

The Observer -
13 Dec 2011
Location: Gladstone Harbour, Queensland, Australia

Earlier Story from November

Americans Worried About Global Pandemics, Yet Lack Knowledge Of Their Likely Source, Survey Shows

Photo courtesy of AFP/Getty Image
Two out of every three Americans worry about the potential for a global disease outbreak. (Thank you, "Contagion.")

Yet, alongside this result from a new survey released Wednesday is a potentially more frightening figure: Fewer than one in five Americans are aware that the next big pandemic is likely to originate in animals. (Avian or swine flu, anyone?)

... Overall, experts think that about 75 percent of newly emerging infectious diseases originate in animals.

"Animals carry viruses. The reason they are getting into us is that we are chopping down trees, building farms next to forests and trading wild animals," said Dr. Jonathan H. Epstein, a wildlife veterinarian with EcoHealth Alliance, which commissioned the study. "Everything comes back to human activities."

However, less than half of the more than 1,000 adults surveyed made these connections. And fewer than a third recognized the roles played by climate change and hunting in the spread of disease, according to the study, conducted at the end of October.

Just over half of Americans, on the other hand, knew that air travel contributes to global disease outbreaks.

Huff Post -
14 Dec 2011

Photo courtesy of Save the Frogs! See poster winners here

Huh?! That's Interesting

A lake fauna in a shot-glass [future biodiversity monitoring using DNA traces in the environment to keep track of threatened wildlife] [Cited journal article here]