Dead and dying seabirds have appeared on the south coast of Newfoundland over the past two weeks, from the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve to the public beaches of St. Vincent’s, Point Lance and the southern peninsula. of Burin.
Tests are underway to determine the root cause of death, but Chris Mooney, an interpretive officer at the Cape St. Mary’s reservation, told CBC News it certainly appears avian flu is the problem.
Mooney, who has worked on the reserve for 21 years, says there was no update Thursday, but test results are expected to come back soon.
“I don’t know how long it takes for it to spread, but I hope it doesn’t spread too much. I hope we don’t lose a lot [of birds],” he said.
“It’s not good because we can’t do anything for them. All we can do now is monitor, keep numbers, talk to the Canadian Wildlife Service, talk to the university, [biologist] Bill Montevecchi and speak to corporate headquarters.”
Signs indicate that the number of dead birds is in the thousands. Mooney suggests that for every bird found on a beach, there are six to ten floating in the ocean. He hopes that the reserve does not face a similar situation where thousands of people died in early June in the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Peter Corcoran has lived in Point Lance for over 50 years. On Thursday, he was on the 2.2 kilometer beach to take stock of the number of birds that had washed ashore over the past two days. Hundreds littered the sand.
“I would say there are almost 300 here now,” Corcoran told CBC News.
“Some wash up, some come in alive. They’ll stay alive for about 10 minutes I guess, then they’ll roll in the sand and die.”
Corcoran said people in his community were unsure what to make of the situation. He said some spoke with federal environmental officers who told them they had been monitoring for bird flu since the winter throughout Placentia Bay.
“I’ve been fishing for 35 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. Here in the winter you might get two, three or four birds, but that’s about it,” he said. .
Watch the gannets
There are approximately 100,000 birds of different species living in St. Mary’s Reserve.
Mooney said most of the bird carcasses found are guillemots with around 20 gannets found. , meaning they’ll be crammed in for two more months, making possible the spread of bird flu all the greater.
Guillemots found on beaches appear to be healthy and full of food, Mooney said, but search teams are going to be affected due to the unknown origin of death.
“Nobody knows. You don’t want to go down among the birds if it’s bird flu. Even though it’s not easily contracted by humans, you still don’t want to go down among them,” he said. .
Corcoran said puffins are also among the birds that wash up and tourists also pass by to enjoy the beach. He tried to get the authorities to come and clean up the mess.
“We have a lot of people walking on the beach. They’re scared to go there now,” he said.
“We’ve always had seven or eight bald eagles here in the spring in the seaweed, I haven’t seen one this year. Not one.”
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