OLYMPIA – More than 250 ducks found dead last week near Lynden in Whatcom County appear to have succumbed to a fungal disease they contracted after eating moldy grain, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Kristin Mansfield, a WDFW veterinarian, said necropsies conducted on some of the birds showed clear signs of aspergillosis, a respiratory tract infection commonly found in waterfowl.
The disease is not contagious and is unlikely to pose a risk to people who cook and eat healthy waterfowl hunted in the area, Mansfield said.
“According to the national Centers for Disease Control, most people breathe the fungal spores that cause aspergillosis every day without ill effects,” she said. “But, as in all cases, people should always avoid direct contact with any birds found dead or dying.”
The dead ducks, mostly mallards and pintails, were found Oct. 26 by a WDFW survey team near Wiser Lake and the Bylsma levee on the Nooksack River. A similar waterfowl die-off occurred in the same area in 2005, said Mike Davison, a WDFW biologist.
Davison asks that anyone who spots a group of dead birds to contact WDFW at (360) 466-4345 ext. 280.
WDFW recommends that people who handle waterfowl take the following precautions:
- Do not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead.
- Wear rubber gloves while cleaning game or cleaning bird feeders.
- Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game.
- Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes immediately after handling game or cleaning bird feeders.
- Wash tools and work surfaces used to clean game birds with soap and water, then disinfect with a 10 percent solution of chlorine bleach.
- Separate raw meat, and anything it touches, from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination.
- Cook game meat thoroughly, to an internal temperature of 155 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.