Avian cholera outbreak kills thousands of birds at California’s Salton Sea

Avian cholera outbreak kills thousands of birds at California’s Salton Sea
Authorities collected more than 1,000 dead birds in a two-week period. (Source: KMIR/CNN)

SALTON SEA, CA (KMIR/CNN) - More than a thousand birds were found dead at a lake in Southern California.

But the cause of death is quite normal for this time of year.

The outbreak of avian cholera is affecting hundreds of water birds in the Salton Sea.

“Some of the species that have been affected by this bird cholera, we have the northern shovelers, ruddy ducks, seagulls (and) black-headed stilts,” said Frank Ruiz, Salton Sea program director.

From Jan. 8-17, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife collected about 1,200 bird carcasses in the south end of the Salton Sea.

The outbreak was caused by bacteria spread among bird flocks, according to the CDFW. The disease also affects mice and rabbits but no other mammals.

“(The disease occurs) particularly around this time of the year where birds kind of gather together and because of the temperatures, cold and humid temperatures," Ruiz said. “It kind of promotes these kinds of outbreaks. It is common this time of the year.”

Ruiz said it is very important for the species' safety to control the outbreak.

“The colonies are declining in numbers," he said. “We’ve seen certain species that have declined up to 95 percent because of many factors, one of them is that there aren’t that many food sources available to them. Salinity is increasingly killing a lot of the fish that live there.”

The CDFW will continue monitoring the area to make sure the outbreak doesn't spread to other places.

Wildlife organizations are asking people who live in that area to report any dead birds they find.

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