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Thousands of mallards found dead in Idaho; experts say bird flu unlikely, but not ruled out

Saturday, December 16, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: H5N1, bird flu, health news

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(NewsTarget) An Idaho hunter called state conservation officials Friday to alert them to a few dead mallards along a creek near Burley. By Wednesday, more than 2,000 ducks littered the banks. Experts are saying it is unlikely the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu was involved.

"We think the possibility of avian flu is very remote but we're not ruling anything out at this point in time," said the Idaho Department of Fish and Game regional supervisor Dave Parish. "We want to make sure all the bases are covered."

On Wednesday, fish and game officials, along with Bureau of Homeland Security officers, gathered the dead birds from the banks. The carcasses will be incinerated, said wildlife managers. State veterinarians reported that their preliminary findings suggest a bacterial infection was responsible for the mass deaths, and Kathryn Converse of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center said it was unlikely insecticides were responsible, because other bird species and animals that have fed on duck carcasses are not affected.

Mallards tend to congregate in the winter, when the waterways they rely on become frozen, and urban development and growing farmlands are exacerbating the situation. Officials said that when migratory birds -- and other animals -- gather together in small areas, they are more likely to get sick, although Parrish noted that this was the first time the area had seen anything like this.

The most recent event even close to the Idaho deaths was an incident that took place in Iowa in 2005. According to records from the wildlife health center, a fungus growing on moldy grain was responsible for the death of some 500 ducks in the town of Waterloo.


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