Avian botulism found in Cape Coral waterfowl die-off
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Media contact: Gary Morse, 863-648-3200
A report to the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission (FWC) confirms an avian strain of botulism
as the likely cause of an August waterfowl die-off in northern Lee
County. The report from the United States Geological Survey,
National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. said the single
Muscovy duck collected from the Barkley Circle area tested positive
for botulism type "C." People are rarely affected by this strain of
FWC Investigator Lar Gregory looked into the
problem after local officials in Cape Coral became concerned that
waterfowl were being poisoned. Gregory traveled to ponds where
affected waterfowl had been reported and observed a number of birds
exhibiting classic symptoms of avian botulism. Gregory was able to
obtain a fresh Muscovy duck carcass and send it to the federal
laboratory for analysis.
"Locally, botulism is a common killer of waterfowl
during hot, summer months, when conditions for an outbreak are most
conducive," said Dr. Mark Cunningham, FWC wildlife veterinarian.
"Waterfowl with this disease typically show signs of paralysis,
giving the disease its common name: 'Limberneck.'"
Though only one sample was tested, Gregory's
observations, along with information provided by a local
veterinarian who treated some of the affected birds, leave little
doubt that botulism was the primary culprit in the die-off.
"Unfortunately, no one in the area had reported the
problem to our FWC bird mortality database until late in the event,
which delayed our agency's involvement. Reporting information to
the FWC website is easy and only takes a moment," said Gregory.
Citizens who encounter dead or dying birds should
go online to MyFWC.com/Bird to report an incident. When
encountering wildlife that is dead or appears sick, people should
avoid handling these animals, but contact a licensed wildlife
rehabilitator or FWC biologist about the situation. Pets should not
be allowed to scavenge affected birds, as pets are susceptible to