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GLIN==> MIGRATORY BIRD DIE-OFF IN GREAT LAKES PROMPTS NYSDEC INVESTIGATION



For Release: IMMEDIATE						     
Contact: Yancey Roy
Wednesday, November 14, 2007					        
  (518) 402-8000

MIGRATORY BIRD DIE-OFF IN GREAT LAKES PROMPTS NEW YORK DEC
INVESTIGATION
Type E Botulism Poisonings Linked to Invasive Species

	More than 100 dead loons and other migratory birds have washed
up on New York's Great Lakes shores in the past week, prompting the New
York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to suspect
another botulism-poisoning episode linked to the spread of invasive
species.

	DEC is investigating the die-off and, although all results are
not complete yet, preliminary evidence closely matches die-offs related
to Type E botulism that have occurred every year on Lake Erie since 2000
and Lake Ontario since 2002, during fall migration, according to state
Wildlife Pathologist Ward Stone.

	Those incidents are tied to two invasive species consumed by
birds during migration stopovers: the quagga mussel and a fish called
the Round Goby.  Loons especially feed on the Round Goby. As the Round
Gobies have proliferated in recent years, particularly in Eastern Lake
Ontario, cases of botulism poisoning have increased, said David Adams, a
DEC waterbird specialist.

	"Unfortunately, this has become an annual event,’’ Adams
said.
 
	Other birds impacted include the Red-breasted Merganser,
Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Horned Grebe,
Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup, Double-crested Cormorant and the
White-winged Scoter. The single species with the greatest mortality has
differed each year. 

	There have been no reports of any human illnesses associated
with these outbreaks, though people should be careful. Type E botulism
is a specific strain of botulism most commonly affecting fish-eating
birds. It causes paralysis in the affected birds and is often fatal. The
disease results from the ingestion of a toxin produced by the botulism
bacterium and can be harmful to humans who eat birds or fish that have
been poisoned by this toxin. (For more information about Type E
botulism, go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/28433.html.) 

	Botulism-related die-offs first appeared in southern Lake Huron
in 1998 and appeared in eastern Lake Erie in 2000. Since the first
observed outbreak in New York, DEC has established extensive shoreline
surveys of both lakes during fall migration. This allows the Department
to not only collect dead birds in certain areas but also to extrapolate
about mortality rates due to Type E botulism around the lakes. DEC
estimates that approximately 41,000 migratory birds have died on Lake
Erie since 2000 and approximately 10,300 on Lake Ontario. Type E
botulism impacts on Lake Ontario have been rising rapidly and, in 2006,
Lake Ontario surpassed Lake Erie in bird deaths. 

	The Common Loons found dead on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are
believed to have traveled primarily from Canada. Although a significant
number of Common Loons nest on lakes throughout the Adirondack Park,
recent studies show these populations do not stopover on Lake Erie or
Lake Ontario during migration and, therefore, are not at risk for this
botulism event. 

	Hunters and anglers are advised not to harvest waterfowl or fish
that are appear to be sick. Cooking may not destroy the botulism toxin.
DEC reminds hunters and anglers to take the following precautions for
preparing all fish and waterfowl:

●	Harvest only fish and waterfowl that act and look healthy. 
●	Wear rubber or plastic protective gloves while filleting, field
dressing, skinning or butchering birds, fish or wildlife. Remove and
discard intestines soon after harvest and avoid direct contact with
intestinal contents.
●	Wash hands, utensils and work surfaces before and after handling
any raw food, including fish and game meat.
●	Keep fish and game cool (either with ice or refrigerated below
45 degrees Fahrenheit/7 degrees Celsius) until filleted or butchered,
and then refrigerate or freeze.
●	Cook fish and other seafood to an internal temperature (in the
thickest part) of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). Cook game
birds to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees
Celsius). 

	If you must handle dead or dying birds or fish, use rubber or
plastic protective gloves or a plastic bag. Any discovery of dead or
distressed fish or wildlife, such as waterbirds showing a condition
known as "limberneck" that results from paralysis of the neck muscles,
should be reported to DEC's Division of Fish and Wildlife office in
Buffalo at (716) 851-7010, Allegany at (716) 372-0645, Avon at (585)
226-2466, Syracuse at (315) 426-7400, Cortland at (607) 753-3095,
Watertown at (315) 785-2261 or Cape Vincent at (315) 654-2147.
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