Botulism Outbreak in Idaho Puts Ducks at Risk


The Idaho Fish and Game Department (FGD) recently announced that an outbreak of avian botulism has killed at least 600 Mallards and other waterfowl at Fort Boise near Parma. Avain botulism is a paralytic disease that is common in warm environments with a lot of decaying vegetation or animals. Transmission to waterfowl occurs when the birds eat contaminated maggots and is generally most prevalent during fall. Each outbreak is a significant threat to waterfowl and can kill thousands of birds. The FGD stated that the current outbreak may dampen hunter success in the area.

“The good news is, we’ve seen no dead ducks in the last 10 days, so it appears the botulism has run its course,” said habitat biologist Andy Ogden in a statement by the department. “The bad news is, the outbreak killed considerable numbers of local ducks, and these are normally the birds harvested in the first few days of the waterfowl season.”

In fact, the department warns that duck hunters anticipating the season’s October 12 opener may want to rethink their plans.

Since botulism outbreaks are often attributed to a large amount of carcasses that allow maggots to ingest the toxin, proper removal of dead wildlife and fish is a good way of preventing it. Botulism is not 100 percent fatal in birds and antitoxins are available. Avian botulism does not effect humans.

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