Drought increasing cases of avian botulism in Calif. birds

Dead birds are turning up in Sacramento and there may be more in the Bay Area because of the drought.
Dead birds are turning up in Sacramento and there may be more in the Bay Area because of the drought.

In 1999, hundreds of birds died in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve due to the same kind of botulism that is killing others in the state.

The bacterium that causes avian botulism is a common occurrence from July through September and thrives in warm weather.

This type of botulism releases a toxin. Birds get it after eating insects like maggots that carry this toxin -- that's part of the natural process.

But this year, the drought is making things worse. Some of the wetlands are dry, so there are fewer places with water and birds are forced to move to other locations.

Now there are a lot more birds concentrated in overpopulated areas of water.

Once botulism spreads, California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials start seeing a lot more dead birds. They have already identified several dozens of dead birds in the Klamath area near the Oregon border and they anticipate this will spread.

Once the birds have the disease they become paralyzed, unable to lift their heads, and it's often fatal.

"With the current conditions, we may see a lot more birds dying and it may repeat year after year until the drought starts to abate," Lindsay Wildlife Museum spokesperson Guthrum Purdin said.

This will continue to spread, so CDFW is asking that if someone sees the symptoms or dead waterfowl, to report it immediately.

People are usually resistant to this type of type-C toxin, but a few cases have been reported.
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