A Utah Division of Wildlife Resources press release says that West Nile virus killed over 20 bald eagles near the Great Salt Lake in Utah last month.
The eagle deaths are unusual in several ways. First, West Nile virus tends to be most active in the summer months when infections are spread by mosquitoes. Second, while West Nile virus is typically spread by mosquitoes, Utah wildlife officials think that this time the eagles got infected after eating eared grebes that had made a migration stop on the Great Salt Lake. (About two million eared grebes visit the lake during migration.)
The smart money was on avian cholera or even avian vacuolar myelinopathy causing the deaths, but testing in two different labs, including the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisc., showed that neither of these diseases was the cause.
The press release quotes a state epidemiologist saying that there is “no risk” to human health from the outbreak because humans typically get West Nile from mosquito bites, and mosquitoes aren’t active in Utah at this time of year.
Read the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources release, here.
Find a list of media coverage of the mortality event and the West Nile diagnosis, here.
Photo: A bald eagle in Utah. Photo by Lynn Chamberlain
Two stories today focus on two different states’ efforts to get lead out of the environment.
An article in the Portland (Maine) Herald Press literally goes behind the scenes of the recent legislative ban on lead fishing gear in Maine, which was passed earlier this year, but won’t totally ban the lead gear until 2017. It goes into the lab of Mark Pokras, a Tufts University professor of wildlife health, who played a role in encouraging that legislation. Pokras has been studying lead poisoning in loons for over 20 years.
Pokras says that lead poisoning is responsible for the deaths of over a third of the loons that find their way to his lab in Massachusetts.
Read the story in the Portland Herald Press, here.
In Minnesota, studies show that a bad shot with a lead bullet (such as one that hits a hip bone), can cause lead to splinter throughout a white tailed deer’s flesh to the extent that it would be difficult, or impossible, to remove all of it. For the sake of public health, and also for the sake of the state’s bald eagles, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages deer hunters to voluntarily use copper bullets.
The article details some of the differences between hunting with copper and lead bullets, which implies that a different technique may be more effective when using copper bullets.
Read the story in the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, here.