Hundreds of ducks dead as botulism strikes pond
Auckland Waikato Fish & Game is asking landowners and hunters to monitor waterfowl populations on their properties and ponds for any signs of sick or dead birds.
The call comes following Fish & Game being notified of an outbreak of avian botulism on an oxidation pond at Matamata which has killed an estimated 900 ducks.
Matamata-piako District Council has been managing the outbreak since it was discovered in January.
‘‘ Our staff identified the disease and immediately took action to manage the situation.
‘‘At the time we were unaware of any obligation we had to notify Fish & Game, however once we advised them we began working together to establish a draft botulism management plan to deal with the current outbreak and to ensure it is dealt with correctly in future,’’ said the council’s group manager of service delivery, Fiona Vessey.
‘‘We are now focusing on preventing the ducks from landing on the pond. Fish & Game have loaned us bird scarers and we are also using gas-loaded guns to scare the ducks with the noise.
‘‘The Department of Conservation and the Hamilton Avian Wildlife Rehab Trust are also providing advice and support.’’
Southern game bird manager David Klee said landowners and hunters in the area should check their ponds to ensure sick waterfowl had not dispersed from the site of the outbreak.
Symptoms include varying degrees of paralysis, sagging heads, drooping wings and flightlessness.
If landowners or hunters observe such signs they are asked to contact David Klee, 021 300 183, at Auckland Waikato Fish & Game immediately for advice on how to deal with the situation.
‘‘It is possible to manage outbreaks of avian botulism. Removing dead birds and disposing of them in an appropriate manner is crucial, that’s why we’re asking hunters and landowners to be vigilant.’’
Mr Klee said Fish & Game was actively working with local and territorial authorities by providing them with the relevant information on how to manage botulism and mitigate its impact.
Fish & Game would like to thank hunting club members and Fish & Game councillors for assisting in the bird dispersal activity around the Matamata wastewater treatment plant where the outbreak occurred. What is avian botulism? A serious neuromuscular illness caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Spores can lie dormant for many years in soil until favourable environmental conditions lead to an outbreak. It has the potential to kill large numbers of waterfowl. Is an outbreak common? Avian botulism outbreaks often occur at wastewater treatment plant sites as these areas provide the perfect conditions for the bac- terium which produces the toxin. Outbreaks typically coincide with periods of hot, dry and calm weather from December to March but can occur outside this period. Is it a threat to humans? Avian botulism is different to the strain of botulism that affects humans.
For further information contact Auckland Waikato Fish & Game’s southern game bird manager David Klee on 021 300 183