In walking the shoreline of Walker Lake, concerned residents have noticed a large amount of bird deaths lining the area. Tiffany Tatum, manager of The Cliff House became proactive a week ago, in contacting the Nevada Department of Wildlife, gathering information directly from Peri Wolff, DVM, a wildlife veterinarian located in Reno.
Walker Lake Fire Captain BJ Foster contacted Brian Eller, the state game warden out of Yerington on Jan. 18, after walking the local shore and finding over 30 bird carcasses. Foster and his wife Robyn had been walking their dogs when they spotted this unusual sight thinking it may have been caused by local hunters.
Specimens of the dead birds were taken for testing and confirmed to have the bird virus known as Cholera. Avian Cholera is the most common disease among wild waterfowl and domestic birds within North America. It is transmitted by bird-to-bird contact or through their feces or indigestion of infected food or water sources. The bacteria responsible for the outbreak can survive up to four months in soil or water.
Wolff stated by phone, “There is a documented case of this outbreak affecting as far west as Sacramento, as far north as Klamath Falls, Ore. and throughout Nevada. This is the first avian cholera outbreak in Nevada in decades. Wetlands and wildlife refuges are commonly affected in California, but not in our State.” For that reason, Tatum offered to assist in the pickup of the dead birds as a sampling, which are then frozen and transported to Reno for on-going testing. This will assist in a proper recording for our state’s infestation.
The species of birds that seem to be dying are commonly ducks; geese; coots; and the scavenger birds such as gulls and black birds, also known as crows. The best way to halt the spread will be to remove the dead carcasses and burn them. A community request is being launched to gather volunteers to initiate a cleanup.
According to the Department of Wildlife’s central department located in Madison, Wis. an estimated thousand birds have been effected since September 2014. Wolff stated, “There is a definite need to get the deceased birds cleaned up and disposed of by burning the corpses to allow the disease the chance to filter out. Unfortunately our department does not have the man power to assist in this effort, so we need the help of the public to help us. The disease only affects birds, of all species, but it is not suggested that dogs eat the diseased birds. The disease is spread primarily by scavenger birds and other wildlife such as coyotes, which can move the disease to broader locations, pulling its prey, then giving exposure to other bird locations. Humans cannot be harmed by this avian virus.”
In walking Walker Lake at the beaches of Tamarack and Sportsman, the evidence of dead birds was not there. Apparently the outbreak is concentrated at the occupied shoreline where the wind washes them up due to the lake’s current.
The Department of Wildlife unfortunately does not have the resources to formulate a cleanup, so the residents of Walker Lake will be joining together in a shoreline pickup on Friday, Jan. 30 at 9 a.m. meeting at the State Park, located off Highway 95 across from the Buffalo Stop. Notification of this effort is posted at the Buffalo Stop, requesting the urgency of removing the dead birds. The Walker Lake Captain, BJ Foster will coordinate the necessary burn at the beach, following the volunteer teams removals. Proper gloves and disposal items are being given to this endeavor by the Department of Wildlife in Reno. Teams of three will be sent out, as documentation of the species needs to take place to define which birds have been affected the most