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Disease Decimating California Waterfowl

Editor's note: This article was provided by the Western Outdoor News.

Lack of water, and hence, lack of flooded marshland, has crowded an estimated 2 million ducks and geese into California's Tulelake/Klamath Basin. The result is widespread avian cholera, killing an estimated 5,000-10,000 ducks and geese thus far. Roughly three-quarters of the die-off is snow and Ross' geese, with an estimated 1,000 pintails.

"This is a real disaster," said retired hunting guide Jay Welch, who lives near Tulelake. "The refuge ponds have, for the most part, dried up, and that puts the birds in tight quarters, and to make things worse, we are having a much higher than normal return of birds from the south."

According to Ron Cole, manager of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges Complex, limited water deliveries to the refuges, combined with a very large waterfowl migration heading back north, has resulted in a higher than usual cholera outbreak.

It's the worst outbreak of avian cholera in years, according to staff at the refuge. With the help of Cal-Ore Waterfowl and Wetlands Council (COWWC), they have picked up approximately 3,500 dead birds so far. Further losses can only be mitigated by picking up dead and diseased birds as soon as possible, or by increasing the amount of flooded land so the birds can disperse.mEven with the increased water being sent and the elevated efforts to pick up dead birds, total die-off could reach 15,000 birds.

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