Thursday, November 15, 2007

KENTUCKY: Deaths of Federally Endangered Bats Under Investigation

State and federal wildlife authorities are investigating the deaths of more than 100 federally endangered Indiana bats at Carter Caves State Resort Park near Olive Hill.

Vandals entered a cave at the park and struck a hibernating colony of Indiana bats with rocks on two different occasions in late October. Some bats were crushed, while others died after being knocked into a stream. Authorities believe the first incident occurred between Oct. 21-24, while the second incident was reported Oct. 27 and may have occurred the previous night. The cave is not being identified to prevent further harm to the remaining bats or other vandalism.

Indiana bats first received protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1966. Until recently, their numbers have decreased steadily. The caves at Carter Caves State Resort Park harbor the largest hibernating population of Indiana bats in Kentucky.

Violations of the Endangered Species Act can result in a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and a year in prison.

Anyone with information about the bat deaths should contact Special Agent Bob Snow of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (502) 582-5989.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NEW YORK: Mirgratory Bird Die-Off in Great Lakes Prompts DEC Investigation

Type E Botulism Poisonings Linked to Invasive Species

More than 100 dead loons and other migratory birds have washed up on Great Lakes shores in the past week, prompting the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to suspect another botulism-poisoning episode linked to the spread of invasive species.

DEC is investigating the die-off and, although all results are not complete yet, preliminary evidence closely matches die-offs related to Type E botulism that have occurred every year on Lake Erie since 2000 and Lake Ontario since 2002, during fall migration, according to state Wildlife Pathologist Ward Stone.

Those incidents are tied to two invasive species consumed by birds during migration stopovers: the quagga mussel and a fish called the Round Goby. Loons especially feed on the Round Goby. As the Round Gobies have proliferated in recent years, particularly in Eastern Lake Ontario, cases of botulism poisoning have increased, said David Adams, a DEC waterbird specialist.

“Unfortunately, this has become an annual event,’’ Adams said.

Other birds impacted include the Red-breasted Merganser, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Horned Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup, Double-crested Cormorant and the White-winged Scoter. The single species with the greatest mortality has differed each year.

There have been no reports of any human illnesses associated with these outbreaks, though people should be careful. Type E botulism is a specific strain of botulism most commonly affecting fish-eating birds. It causes paralysis in the affected birds and is often fatal. The disease results from the ingestion of a toxin produced by the botulism bacterium and can be harmful to humans who eat birds or fish that have been poisoned by this toxin. (For more information about Type E botulism, go to

Botulism-related die-offs first appeared in southern Lake Huron in 1998 and appeared in eastern Lake Erie in 2000. Since the first observed outbreak in New York, DEC has established extensive shoreline surveys of both lakes during fall migration. This allows the Department to not only collect dead birds in certain areas but also to extrapolate about mortality rates due to Type E botulism around the lakes. DEC estimates that approximately 41,000 migratory birds have died on Lake Erie since 2000 and approximately 10,300 on Lake Ontario. Type E botulism impacts on Lake Ontario have been rising rapidly and, in 2006, Lake Ontario surpassed Lake Erie in bird deaths.

The Common Loons found dead on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are believed to have traveled primarily from Canada. Although a significant number of Common Loons nest on lakes throughout the Adirondack Park, recent studies show these populations do not stopover on Lake Erie or Lake Ontario during migration and, therefore, are not at risk for this botulism event.

Hunters and anglers are advised not to harvest waterfowl or fish that are appear to be sick. Cooking may not destroy the botulism toxin. DEC reminds hunters and anglers to take the following precautions for preparing all fish and waterfowl:

- Harvest only fish and waterfowl that act and look healthy.
- Wear rubber or plastic protective gloves while filleting, field dressing, skinning or butchering birds, fish or wildlife. Remove and discard intestines soon after harvest and avoid direct contact with intestinal contents.
- Wash hands, utensils and work surfaces before and after handling any raw food, including fish and game meat.
- Keep fish and game cool (either with ice or refrigerated below 45 degrees Fahrenheit/7 degrees Celsius) until filleted or butchered, and then refrigerate or freeze.
- Cook fish and other seafood to an internal temperature (in the thickest part) of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). Cook game birds to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius).

If you must handle dead or dying birds or fish, use rubber or plastic protective gloves or a plastic bag. Any discovery of dead or distressed fish or wildlife, such as waterbirds showing a condition known as "limberneck" that results from paralysis of the neck muscles, should be reported to DEC's Division of Fish and Wildlife office in Buffalo at (716) 851-7010, Allegany at (716) 372-0645, Avon at (585) 226-2466, Syracuse at (315) 426-7400, Cortland at (607) 753-3095, Watertown at (315) 785-2261 or Cape Vincent at (315) 654-2147.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

KENTUCKY: Outbreak of Deer Disease Ends

This year’s outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in deer appears over. The killing frosts of the past week have eliminated most of the midges (gnats) which carry the disease.

Biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources have not received any new reports of deer deaths associated with the disease in several days, said Tina Brunjes, the department’s big game coordinator. Department officials have documented more than 4,000 deer deaths from the disease.

“There’s no way to put an actual number on the deer that have died as a result of EHD,” Brunjes said. “However, hunters have taken more than 18,000 deer this season, which is around average at this point of the season.”

The disease, while fatal to deer, cannot be transferred to humans. Eating the meat of deer that appear to be healthy poses no risk to humans even if the deer is infected with hemorrhagic disease. Hunters, however, should not eat animals that appeared emaciated or weak prior to harvest, due to the risk of secondary infections. Hemorrhagic disease can cause large abscesses to form in the body cavity, muscle tissue or under the skin. These abscesses render the meat inedible. Modern gun season for deer, which opens statewide Nov. 10, will provide the best indication of the severity of the outbreak. Most deer are taken during the modern gun season. If the numbers are down considerably, that will provide biologists a better idea of the size of the state’s existing deer herd.

“We will continue to track harvest throughout the modern gun season in an effort to gauge the total impact of EHD,” said Wildlife Division Director Karen Alexy. “Right now, there’s no way to estimate the number of deer that have died from EHD.”

Officials in several surrounding states reported similar outbreaks this year. Department officials will evaluate total deer numbers and recommend any changes to deer zones in 2008, if needed, at the March meeting of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission. Prior to the outbreak, Kentucky’s deer herd numbered nearly a million. Brunjes noted that deer are prolific breeders.
Even if the disease hit a local area hard this year, she said, the number of deer in the area will likely rebound within two years because of reproduction and animals moving in from other areas.

For a listing of all of Kentucky’s deer seasons and hunting regulations, consult the 2007-2008 Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide, available wherever hunting licenses are sold.