News Releases

Avian botulism found in Cape Coral waterfowl die-off

News Release

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 botulism.

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 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 avian botulism.

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