15 Aug Agencies suspect avian botulism effecting birds on the LA River
In the past weeks community members contacted FoLAR with an alarming trend – dead birds are being sighted in the Glendale Narrows section of the River, near Bette Davis Picnic Area and in Elysian Valley. Locals discovered a number of birds – geese, mallards, ducks, and at least one heron – flying and feeding lethargically, or their carcasses in and along the River. This sparked a scientific investigation into what conditions would lead to such an affliction among our local bird population, which is extending to impact fish.
We share the same concern as our neighbors, and are eager for health and wildlife agencies to continue their investigation into this issue affecting bird populations on the River. In the ensuring days and weeks, two community members contacted the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife directly. Biologists were sent immediately to assess the situation, and to bring bird carcasses back to Sacramento for testing. FoLAR has requested a copy of the report findings.
FoLAR and community members contacted and corresponded with representatives from a number of agencies: County Public Health, US Fish and Wildlife Service, CA Department of Fish and Wildlife, Animal Control, and both US Army Corp and County Flood Control District. Community scientists, bird enthusiasts, and representatives from our public agencies sought to answer crucial questions in piecing together this puzzle: How many dead birds have you seen and over what span of time? What species of birds are you seeing dead and what are the closest addresses to their location? Where can we collect a sample? Who else has been contacted?
Ultimately, LA County Public Health received notice from CA Fish and Wildlife that the bird die-off is presumed to be caused by avian botulism. Botulism is a naturally occurring toxin that can be found in soil and transmitted from bird to bird through protein source (in this instance maggots and fish). Botulism makes birds very weak, unable to hold their head up or fly and can ultimately result in their death. LA County Public Health added, “We are currently working with the Army Corp of Engineers to decide on appropriate action and clean-up of the area to stop the outbreak.” For more information about the avian botulism, please visit US Geological Survey’s website.
If you see a dead or weakened bird:
1. Do NOT touch the bird
2. Take note of your location and photograph the animal in its place
3. Call LA Sanitation, who collect dead animals free of charge. Call 1-800-773-2489, from Monday through Saturday, between 7:30a.m. and 4:45p.m. For after hours and Sundays, please dial 3-1-1 on your home phone or utilize your 311 app on your smartphone.
Our urban riparian ecosystem is fragile and compromised; this troubling sequence of events further illustrates the need for meaningful ecological restoration on our LA River. The increasing heat in summers, coupled with existing high water temperatures and low oxygen levels in concrete channel enabled this unfortunate series of events leading to sick birds. While agencies are monitoring the situation and working towards its solution, we’re asking you in the River community to be aware, to do your part in reporting dead birds, and to continue to advocate with us for robust ecological restoration on the LA River.