Botulism caused duck deaths

TESTS have confirmed that botulism caused the death of more than 200 wild ducks on two ponds in Nowra.

During December and January wild ducks were found dead or dying on the ponds in Harry Sawkins and Marriott Parks.

Testing by the Environment Protection Authority ruled out chemical poisoning, with the Cumberland Livestock Health and Pest Authority discovering the birds had died from botulism.

LHPA senior district veterinarian, Dr Keith Hart said botulism is a paralytic disease which is difficult to diagnose.

“It is caused by the ingestion of a toxin, in this case created through a combination of low water levels and warm temperatures,” he said.

“Several dead and dying ducks and a dying seagull were examined,” he said, adding that botulism was a difficult disease to identify.

“Swabs were also taken to exclude Virulent Avian Influenza – a potentially serious viral disease that could show up initially as water bird mortalities on or near the coast. 

“My diagnosis has been based on the history and clinical signs exhibited by the sick birds examined and described by council staff, and the fact that botulism is a fairly common cause of waterbird deaths under these conditions.”

Dr Hart says while the recent rainfall and cooler weather will assist in flushing out the toxins, people should stay away from any duck carcasses.

“It is important that the public don’t touch duck carcasses or allow dogs to touch them,” he said.

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