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Avian botulism strikes Utah wild birds early due to extreme heat

Posted at 10:26 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 00:30:29-04

CLINTON, Utah — A bird rescue organization made an alarming discovery at a local pond.

Images captured by "For Duck’s Sake" show more than a dozen duck carcasses at the Clinton Ponds.

It's believed the birds died from avian botulism — a disease the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says occurs almost yearly in the state.

“Personally, the botulism outbreaks are most heartbreaking thing that rescuers see,” said Tiffany Young, the director of Ducks and Clucks Bird Sanctuary. “It is a horrendous death.”

While the outbreaks usually occur between the months of July and September, the extreme heat and drought conditions have created a perfect recipe for the disease to thrive in June.

Young shared tips on how the public can help slow the outbreaks by doing things like limiting the use of fertilizer on lawns, not throwing food into ponds, and not abandoning pet ducks.

She also believes cities should have second thoughts about constructing unnatural bodies of water like human-made ponds.

“We may need to think in the future of limiting those, draining those to make sure we aren’t creating ponds that are poisonous four to five months of the year for wildlife,” Young said.

The city of Clinton says crews check the ponds every day for any animal carcasses that could perpetuate the spread of the disease.

The ponds had a similar outbreak in 2020 and shared these steps they took to address the issue.