Monday, 15 July 2024

Officials report ruddy duck die-off on Northshore

This article has been updated.: Please note, the previous version gave handling protocols and local officials are asking the public not to pick the birds up at this time.


NORTHSHORE – County officials are reporting a die-off of ruddy ducks in the Nice-Lucerne area.

Officials don't yet know what has caused the birds to die. Last year, avian influenza killed a number of ducks near Lakeport's Library Park; three years ago, avian cholera claimed thousands of ruddy ducks in the lake's main arm.

Pamela Francis, deputy director of the county's Water Resources division, notified Supervisor Denise Rushing of the situation on Monday.


Francis reported that 150 animals have been collected, and that the state Department of Fish & Game (DFG) has taken samples in order to find a cause of death for the animals.


In January 2004, a massive ruddy duck die-off occurred on Clear Lake which DFG attributed to avian cholera. A DFG report said a total of 7,400 dead ducks were collected and disposed of in that die-off event, which was the first recorded avian cholera outbreak on Clear Lake.


Ruddy ducks are a migratory fowl which can be found wintering in Lake County, not just on the main lake but also Borax Lake, according to the county's tourism site.


In addition to the ruddy ducks, that avian cholera outbreak also claimed the lives of mallard ducks, grebes and egrets.


The 2004 die-off occurred in the main arm of Clear Lake. DFG, California Department of Agriculture, County of Lake staff, U.S. Fish & Wildlife and volunteers from SpiritWild, a local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization, collected the dead animals both on the water and on land.


Most of the dead ducks were picked up on the lake's eastern shore – from Nice to Glenhaven – with some dead ducks found in the Oaks arm of the lake.


This latest die-off appears to be occurring close to the same area as the one in 2004.


The National Wildlife Health Center's (NWHC) Field Manual of Wildlife Diseases notes that waterfowl are common avian cholera victims, with wading birds, shorebirds and cranes falling to the disease less frequently. California, the report noted, has outbreaks of the disease almost annually.


Avian cholera hits wild waterfowl in a season pattern closely associated with seasonal migrations, the report notes, with outbreaks in California normally starting during fall and continuing into the spring.


DFG reports that disposing of the carcasses helps slow the spread of diseases like avian cholera, which is lethal to waterfowl and other birds but does not affect humans. Only one type of avian influenza has been noted to affect humans, but it has not yet been found in the United States.


Officials are taking care of collecting the animals and ask area resident not to pick the animals up at this time, until they know the precise cause of the birds' deaths. 


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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