Home > Mass Animal Deaths, Pestilence > Minnesota: Virus Kills Hundreds Of Birds – Cormorants, Pelicans, Sea Gulls, Herons And Egrets Found Dead On Two Lakes

Minnesota: Virus Kills Hundreds Of Birds – Cormorants, Pelicans, Sea Gulls, Herons And Egrets Found Dead On Two Lakes


By MARIA ELENA BACA, Star Tribune – “Hundreds of cormorants, pelicans, gulls, herons and egrets are dead on two lakes in west-central and southern Minnesota, most likely the result of a virus that strikes wild birds every other summer.

Following a tip from Ontario, Department of Natural Resources officials began investigating Minnesota lakes; they discovered carcasses and obviously ill birds at Pigeon Lake, near Litchfield, and Minnesota Lake, southeast of Mankato, said Erika Butler, a DNR wildlife veterinarian. Test results are pending, but DNR officials believe the cause is Newcastle disease, a virus that is spread by droppings and body fluids. Butler described ‘stereotypical presentation’ among diseased birds, including paralysis, drooping heads and the inability to walk or swim. Diseased birds were being euthanized; other carcasses were being quickly cleared and incinerated to prevent the spread.

As of last week, DNR officials had discovered 700 cormorants, 100 pelicans and smaller numbers of the other birds dead and diseased at Pigeon Lake. The toll amounted to fewer than 100 at Minnesota Lake.

Butler noted that the dead birds tested negative for avian influenza.

This year’s Newcastle outbreak, which is smaller than those reported previously, is not exacerbated by climate conditions; the biennial outbreaks more likely have to do with the way immunity is passed from bird to chick, Butler said. The disease does tend to strike juvenile birds hardest. This year’s relatively lower numbers could be the happy result of an early spring, she said; many juveniles already have grown enough to leave their colonies. It’s not clear why the virus hits cormorants so hard, she said, but she added that even such a large die-off will not have a big effect on the statewide population, which has been healthy.” Read more.

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