March 1, 2013

In the midst of dead alcids and other wildlife disease news stories


In the midst of dead alcids
Hey, you guys on the east coast you can help! Report your sightings of dead and sick birds. Read on to learn about these unusual bird moralities from the SEANET blog and how you can help.
We are currently observing a couple of different mortality events on both SEANET (Seabird Ecological Assessment Network) beaches, and civilian beaches here on the East Coast. These events have been puzzling in the way they have coincided. The first, a die-off of Dovekies, was relatively narrow in its geographic range. Dr. Bethany Rottner, of the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Hampton Bays, NY wrote to me asking if we’d seen a lot of dead Dovekies on SEANET beaches starting in December. We had not seen anything particularly unusual, and have not since. But their rehab was inundated with more than fifteen of the little birds.

...Not so for Razorbills. Back in December, we started receiving reports of dead Razorbills all the way down in Florida, where they do not normally spend time. By January, a handful of birds had been found dead in North Carolina. The mortality wave continued to recede northward, with dead Razorbills reported in New York in early February, and then Rhode Island and Massachusetts by mid-February. We continue to get reports from Cape Cod of yet more Razorbills, and our tally is almost 30 birds total for the winter. Compare this with a more typical year, where we might see 3-5 Razorbills reported dead, and they only in the Northeast, not in North Carolina or Florida.

Atlantic Puffins have been the superstars of this winter’s weirdness though. We almost never get any reports of puffins at all, maybe one every couple years. This winter, beginning in January, we started to hear of puffins, both live and dead, turning up on Cape Cod. WildCare in Eastham, MA is currently caring for a couple of puffins who showed up after the big blizzard a couple weeks ago.

How can you help?
... If you find a bird on a non-survey beach walk, or if you’re not a Seanetter at all, you can also report to Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER).

22 Feb 2013
Location: East Coast, USA

Tragedy in New Zealand: Dozens of Critically Endangered Birds Dead, Cause Unknown

Efforts to save the critically endangered shore plover from extinction in New Zealand have suffered a major setback: nearly 60 of the birds have died due to unknown causes, reducing the world population of the species to just 200.

.... Until this unexpected tragedy the birds on Portland had been doing so well that some of the eggs laid there were being moved to other predator-free islands to fortify additional assurance populations. “This has a huge impact on the viability of the species,” DOC team leader for shore plover recovery on Portland Island said earlier this month in a prepared release.

Portland Island is a privately owned sanctuary that to the best of the DOC’s knowledge does not contain rats, cats, stoats (a type of weasel) or other bird-killing predators. DOC has now set up cameras and recently brought in dogs capable of sniffing out any stoats, but nothing has turned up. The department is also performing disease screenings and autopsies on the dead birds. At least one previously established island population failed when the birds contracted a disease called avian pox.

Scientific American -
26 Feb 2013
JR Platt
Location: Portland, Island, New Zealand - Map It

Hundreds of Bloodied Mobula Ray Fish Mysteriously Wash up on Gaza City Beach

Photo credit: The Independent
Fishermen on the beach at Gaza City were stunned when dozens of Mobula rays mysteriously washed up onshore. The creatures belong to the Mobulidae subfamily and can grow up to 17ft wide. The dead fish were quickly carted to local markets; it was the first time in six years that these animals have been seen in these waters, according to a local video report.

... This [incident] is strange to me and unknown to me as well. I have worked in the Gulf of California for many years where there are abundant mobula schools and I have never seen a mass stranding," Bob Rubin, from the Santa Rosa Junior College in California told Mail Online.

"These animals seem to have blood on the "wings" - pectoral fins - which may have come from slapping something - boats, rocks, sand, each other?" Rubin, an expert on the Ray family, added.

He also said that unless the stomach contents and condition of the gills were examined, it would be difficult to determine a cause of death. However, he hazarded that large underwater noises or electrical signals may have caused some state of disorientation.

International Business News -
28 Feb 2013
D Nair
Location: Gaza City, Gaza Strip - Map It  

Hoof rot strikes elk

Elk hoof rot, a disease seen predominantly among elk in Southwest Washington, has found its way to the Snoqualmie Valley herds. Harold Erland, a wildlife biologist with the local Elk Management Group, said Feb. 20 that three elk have been found dead with the disease. There are currently 430 elk in the Snoqualmie Valley, with 150 of those living in and around North Bend, he said.

One North Bend elk dropped dead right at a resident’s home on Maloney Grove Road last August, and another was found near the Encompass parking lot, he said.  The third one was struck by a vehicle and was later found dead at Snoqualmie Middle School on Feb. 17 in Snoqualmie, but Erland said the elk showed signs of the hoof rot disease.

...Erland, who performed the necropsies on the three dead elk, said all three showed selenium and copper deficiencies, and he will ask the Department of Fish and Wildlife if he can put salt blocks fortified with selenium and copper out for the elk to see if it helps.

SnoValley Star -
27 Feb 2013
M Mihalovich
Location: Snoqualmie Valley, Washington, USA - Map It    

Illinois Counties confirmed: Hardin, LaSalle, Monroe, Pope
Kentucky County confirmed: Hart [USA] | Map updated: 28 Feb 2013

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