MUD LAKE - The Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG) is reporting that during the past weekend staff and volunteers collected the carcasses of approximately 2,000 migrating snow geese that appeared to have succumbed to avian cholera and died while stopping at Mud Lake and Market Lake Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), on their way back north to their nesting grounds in Northern Alaska. The carcasses were collected and will be incinerated so that other predatory and scavenger birds do not ingest the deadly bacteria. Results are not yet back from the IDFG Wildlife Laboratory to definitively confirm avian cholera, but apparent symptoms seem to indicate the disease. According to the United States Geographical Survey Health Laboratory, humans are not at a high risk of infection from the bacteria causing avian cholera.
The carcasses of a small number of snow geese were first reported at Camas National Wildlife Refuge near Dubois, Idaho. Closer inspection on Friday found higher numbers of dead birds at the Mud Lake WMA Area near Terreton, Idaho and a lesser amount at Market Lake WMA near Roberts, Idaho. The migratory birds were on the return leg of their migration from the southwestern United States and Mexico to their breeding grounds on the northern coast of Alaska. It is unknown at this time where the geese may have picked up the suspected bacteria. "Outbreaks of avian cholera have occurred sporadically in the region over the past few decades," said Upper Snake Regional Supervisor Steve Schmidt.
According to Schmidt, "The important thing is to quickly collect as many of the carcasses as possible, to prevent other birds from feeding on the infected birds." In the case of Mud Lake WMA, biologists observed about twenty eagles in the vicinity of some of the carcasses. Because of a delayed incubation period it is uncertain where these eagles might be located, if and when the avian cholera affects them.
If the public observes dead birds, they are asked to call and report the location to the Upper Snake Regional Office at 208-525-7290. While there is little possibility of humans contracting the disease, the public is asked to not handle dead birds because of the potential for unintentionally distributing the disease to other wildlife.