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Environment | Flora and Fauna | local | Water

Avian Botulism Kills Birds, Spurs Lake Closures

Government officials say an outbreak of avian botulism has killed at least 1,200 birds at a popular Portland wetland.

A few days after a birdwatcher found dead birds at Smith and Bybee Lakes, officials had closed lake access and sent bird carcasses to a Wisconsin wildlife lab.

Officials say the lab confirmed that avian botulism killed the birds.

Dan Moeller with Metro said there’s no known risk to humans, but he says the disease is often fatal for birds.

“They can recover from it, but it’s more likely that it overtakes them, relatively quickly,” Moeller said.

The state’s top wildlife veterinarian says avian botulism tends to break out when fall bird migrations meet warm water and dry weather.

Metro, state wildlife officials and veterinary experts from Oregon State University are trying to reduce bacteria in two ways. They’re collecting all the dead birds they can, and they’re drawing down water levels to clear out bacteria and steer migrating birds elsewhere.

Officials say some cool, wet weather would help, too.

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