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Flora and Fauna | Environment

Avian Cholera Plagues Waterfowl In Klamath Basin Refuge

The Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge is a key rest stop for more than a million migrating spring birds. But the refuge is also a hotspot for avian cholera.

Snow geese and pintail ducks have arrived in the Klamath Basin to feed and fatten up. Soon, they will fly to the arctic to nest. But little rain fell in the Klamath Basin this winter, and so the migrating birds have to share space in a much smaller wetland.

Dave Mauser is a biologist who works for the wildlife refuge. He says the crowding is contributing to an outbreak of avian cholera. He estimates disease has killed about 10,000 birds in the refuge this year.

“It happens so quickly,” he says. “Sometimes, I have seen birds literally fall out of the sky. It happens that quickly. So, you very rarely in a cholera outbreak find sick birds.”

Volunteers are scooping up dead birds to keep the bacteria from spreading in the water. Mauser says warmer spring weather should help the outbreak pass.

According to the National Wildlife Health Center, humans are not at high risk for avian cholera.

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