Type E Botulism strikes again in the Great Lakes

Photo: Flickr/Ano Lobb. @healthyrx

Photo: Flickr/Ano Lobb. @healthyrx

“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) announced (on Friday, December 6, 2013) that Type E botulism has again struck the eastern basin of Lake Ontario this fall resulting in sizable mortality in migrating waterbirds. Reports from the public and field investigations by DEC crews indicate that at least 200-300 common loons have washed ashore along Jefferson and northern Oswego County shorelines. The loon deaths were all attributable to type E botulism. Long-tailed ducks, grebes and gulls have also been found. A mortality event involving this many loons has not been seen on Lake Ontario since 2006.” – NYDEC press release

In July of this year, the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre diagnosed Type E botulism in a Caspian Tern that was collected from Lake Ontario.

Type E botulism outbreaks on the Great Lakes have become a regular occurrence resulting in the deaths of thousands of birds.  Scientists are now using new and creative techniques to help solve the mystery and prove how the botulism toxin makes it’s way in the food chain to become available to waterfowl.  “It’s kind of like a detective story,” David Blehert, a microbiologist with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center told reporters. Primarily the goal is to determine why the outbreaks have been increasing in frequency and intensity in the last decade and whether anything can be done to prevent or diminish the outbreaks.

Dr. Ted Leighton explains the effects of the deadly Botulism toxin affecting wildlife in the great lakes of Canada. It is most likely that several environmental factors including alien species, climate change and nutrient runoff are the root cause of botulism killing birds and fish on the Great Lakes.

The public is encouraged to report dead birds to the regional CCWHC offices or to their local Department of Natural Resources.

Article by Christine Wilson

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