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Sick and dead birds found in Salmon Arm Bay spur testing for avian flu

Province has received several reports of sick or dead Canada geese and grebes since June 8
More than half of Western Grebes hatched in British Columbia begin their lives in Salmon Arm Bay according to the Salmon Arm Bay Nature Enhancement Society. (File photo)

Ron Banville is concerned avian flu has reached Salmon Arm’s bird sanctuary.

The Shuswap nature photographer frequently visits the city’s Marine Peace Park and adjacent sanctuary looking for wildlife to capture with his camera. Earlier this summer he began finding dead birds in the sanctuary and, with reports of avian flu showing up in the Okanagan, including Enderby, he decided to take action.

“They say if you see a dead bird, report it, and if you see three dead birds, then that’s a concern,” said Banville. “Well, I’ve found six dead birds, so I called the hotline for the bird flu and talked to the supervisors there and they said the birds that I took pictures of, the carcasses, were too old to take autopsies, so I had to find a bird that was less than 24 hours dead.”

Banville was told if he sees a bird flying around in constant circles, that’s a sign it has avian influenza.

“I saw a few like that but one day I saw a Canada goose by the gas pumps going around in circles so I called them back and I said I found one that’s not even dead yet but it’s been going in circles for two days. They came the next day and they picked up that Canada goose.”

Banville said two days later, there were people walking in waders along the shore, and then others in an aluminum boat “by the mouth of the river down there in the bay, and they were picking up carcasses so they know for sure that it’s here now.”

Banville said the dead birds he found were grebes and Canada geese.

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Read more: UPDATE: Avian flu near Enderby creates large control zone

“I was concerned because I thought there’s quite a few of them. I’ve not see dead birds around here in the five years I’ve been here.”

While testing is being done, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) had yet to confirm a case of avian flu among wild birds in Salmon Arm.

A spokesperson with ECCC said in an Aug. 18 email that the B.C. government has received several reports of sick or dead Canada geese and grebes in Salmon Arm since June 8, 2022.

“Most of the sick birds left the area prior to being collected; however, one Canada goose was collected and is presently being tested, with the results pending. No carcasses were collected; they were either unable to be collected or they were unsuitable for necropsy (decomposed).”

To minimize the risk of transmission of highly pathogenic avian influenza or HPAI, ECCC advised people to not handle or feed any wild bird.

“Feeding encourages wild birds to congregate around food sources and can increase the probability of transmission among wild birds, both within and among species,” said the ECCC.

Dead, injured or sick birds should not be touched and should be immediately reported in British Columbia to the British Columbia Interagency Wild Bird Mortality hotline at 1-866-431-BIRD (2473).
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