PORTLAND – A botulism outbreak has killed more than 1,200 birds at a local wetlands, and although officials say there is no threat to humans, the area has been closed to paddlers.
Smith and Bybee Wetlands is a 200-acre natural area that attracts a variety of migratory birds. Earlier this month, birders and kayakers started noticing dead green winged teals, mallards, coots and other birds.
Wildlife officials tested some of the remains and found the birds had botulism. Bird kills due to botulism can occur, especially when a long stretch of warm weather helps natural material break down, creating a bacteria in the soil. The bacteria is then eaten by birds.
Bird carcasses attract maggots, which are then eaten by other birds, making them ill, too.
"If groups of scientists and workers aren’t out here collecting the dead materials then it can spread very quickly. And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since we found out it was occurring, was to get our here as quickly as possible,” said Dan Moeller, Metro’s Natural Areas Land Manager.
Metro manages the natural area. Other agencies have helped deal with the avian botulism outbreak, including the City of Portland, the Port of Portland, and ODFW.
Moeller thanked birders and kayakers for letting officials know of the outbreak initially.
The Audubon Society is helping the two dozen birds that have so far been found sick, but alive. Clinic workers are helping the fragile animals with intravenous fluids and food, until they can make it on their own.
"Being able to have something that you’re worked so hard on and spent so much time on and to be able to able to get them back out into the wild and give them that second chance, that the reason why I do this,” said Lacy Campbell, who is the operations manager for the society’s wildlife care center.
As a precaution and to let crews continue their work collecting birds, the wetlands are closed until further notice.