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Water bird deaths down at the Salton Sea

bird picture

Last year, between January 8-17th, thousands of birds died at the Salton Sea. This was due to a bacterial outbreak known as Avian Cholera.

This year, The Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge (SBNWR) has not found any birds with the same bacterial infection.

Taban Sharifi spoke with Chris Schoneman, the Refuge Manager at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge about the changes keeping water bird deaths low this year.

When birds get this disease, "It causes paralysis, paralyzes the birds and it can kill them." Schoneman says, "It's a bacteria that we believe is always present in the Salton Sea, naturally occurring, but when environmental conditions favor this bacteria, it can increase it in quantity and cause the birds to come in contact with it."

Colder than normal temperatures increase the bacteria and cause these birds to be more susceptible during the winter. Schoneman says that the disease does not affect all birds the same, "They will get sick but not as dramatically as we see some of the ducks, the waterfowl that within hours of being infected can die."

Birds travel in flocks, leading there to be many of them in one area. This is when the bacteria can spread very quickly.

The good news, this year Schoneman says they have not seen any cases of the outbreak. He says, "We have got a good healthy migration of waterfowl and shorebirds down here this winter."

The staff at the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge keep a close eye on the wildlife by walking along the shores of the sea frequently as well as having the ability to get on a boat and monitor the sea for sick birds. Their job is to minimize the spreading of the disease if they do see it.

As for now, Schoneman states in relief, thins are "calm and quiet… knock on wood, hopefully, it will stay that way."

If you want to contact the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge or report any dead birds. You can click HERE for their website or call their phone number at 1-760-348-5278.

News / News Headlines

Taban Sharifi

Taban Sharifi is a Meteorologist and Reporter with KESQ News Channel 3, The Desert’s News & Weather Leader. Learn more about Taban here.

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