21,000 dead birds recovered

March 17, 1994|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Eastern Shore Bureau of The Sun

EASTON -- Wildlife workers and volunteers in Maryland and Virginia have recovered 21,000 bird carcasses since a die-off from avian cholera among sea ducks was first observed along the Eastern Shore on Feb. 20.

Larry Hindman, migratory bird program specialist for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said that the carcasses recovered are only a fraction of the ducks killed by the disease, caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida.

"Mortality would be several times what has been picked up," he said.

Other ducks, including scoters, buffleheads, goldeneyes and canvasbacks, have died of the disease. Sea gulls, which feed on the diseased carcasses, are dying, too.

A necropsy of a tundra swan found at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County confirmed that the bird died of the disease, Mr. Hindman said.

Wildlife officers in Virginia caught a sick eagle in Lancaster County, near the Chesapeake Bay, although preliminary tests did not link the bird's condition to the disease.

Mr. Hindman said eagles have been observed feeding on carcasses. No dead eagles have been found, he said, but Maryland workers are scheduled to search areas along the bay where eagle nests recently have been reported to be empty.

He said the cholera -- not a high risk for humans -- remains most concentrated among waterfowl in the Chesapeake Bay and near the mouths of its tributaries.

With migration under way, biologists are worried that birds stopping in the Chesapeake region will pick up the bacteria.

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