View Full Version : "Duck die-off in Idaho sparks fears "

14th December 2006, 13:59
Just hope this has nothing to do with the "Bird Flu" virus... .

The number of mallard ducks that have died along a creek in southeastern Idaho has climbed to 2,500, as puzzled wildlife officials awaited test results they hoped would provide clues to what is killing them.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials expected to have results Thursday from the tests on tissue samples from the ducks' abdominal tract and on water samples from the creek.

The battery of tests at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's national laboratory in Wisconsin, the University of Idaho and Washington State University were expected to rule out an avian flu outbreak.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were testing tissue samples Wednesday, hoping to rule out an avian flu outbreak.

The ducks mysteriously began dying last week around Land Springs Creek, near the remote town of Oakley, about 180 miles southeast of Boise.

Some migratory mallards from Canada and their local cousins were still perishing at the creek Wednesday, staggering and struggling to breathe before collapsing, said Dave Parrish, regional supervisor for Fish and Game.

"I've never seen anything like this in 20 years here," he said. "There were dead mallards everywhere — in the water and on the banks. It was odd, they were in a very small area."

The massive outbreak is vexing scientists because only mallard ducks are dying. Golden eagles, geese, magpies, crows and other birds in the area all remain healthy.

Tissue from the ducks' intestinal tract and water samples from the creek were sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service national laboratory in Wisconsin, the University of Idaho and Washington State University. The agencies expect to review test results Thursday to determine the cause of death.

Mark Drew, a wildlife veterinarian with the state Department of Agriculture, said the ducks likely were exposed to a single contamination source and gathered at the creek, their mutual roosting point, to die. He did not suspect the mallards were passing a contagious virus.

The ducks may have contracted a bacterial or fungal infection by eating grain treated with pesticides by local cattle farmers, Drew said. Farming chemicals may also have spilled into the small spring-fed creek, which measures just 3- to 6-inches deep.

In addition to Idaho Fish and Game and Homeland Security officers, representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the local health district were investigating the deaths.

The agencies posted signs warning hunters not to eat any birds killed near the creek.

"I'd say there's no reason for alarm in the sense that literally the sky is falling and there's disease spreading," Drew said. "It's unusual in the number of birds and the sense that it's only mallards, but it's nothing that would cause anyone to panic."


LAS VEGAS (AP) — Federal lawmakers have approved a plan by southern Nevada water officials to build a reservoir to capture Colorado River water that otherwise flows into the Gulf of California.

Language authorizing the reservoir was contained in a tax bill passed in the waning hours of the 109th Congress.

It calls for the Las Vegas-based Southern Nevada Water Authority to pay to build the reservoir just north of the Mexico border to capture irrigation water sent from Lake Mead to Southern California farmers. Officials say that during rainy weather, water that would go to farms currently flows to Mexico.

For the $84 million reservoir, southern Nevada will gain rights to up to 40,000 acre-feet of water a year for seven years. An acre-foot is about enough water for two families per year.

The authority sought the legislation with hopes of avoiding an environmental fight over the reservoir. Environmentalists have delayed a similar project in San Diego.