2000+ Geese Die in Idaho; Are Oregon’s Geese Next?

In a bizarre turn that has yet to be fully explained, thousands of migrating snow geese were found dead on Sauvie Island and in other wildlife areas in Eastern Idaho. Disease is the likely culprit, though fowl play has not yet been ruled out. Whatever the cause, the event has Oregon avian biologists worried that our state’s geese could be next.

“You Have Contracted Avian Cholera”

Biologists suspect that, like so many characters in Oregon Trail, the birds may have been felled by cholera. Avian cholera is an especially fast-spreading disease, which most of the geese likely contracted before reaching Idaho. It appears as though many of the poor birdies were in mid-flight when they quite literally dropped dead, say biologists.

Over two thousand bird carcasses were discovered on and/or near Sauvie Island, which lies smack in the middle of the Pacific Flyway. The area sees tens of thousands of geese during migratory season, which has Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials concerned that avian cholera could rapidly spread into Oregon. It is also possible, though perhaps unlikely, that the birds were murdered, perhaps by a jealous, rival flock.

Authorities are on the lookout for this goose, who is considered armed and dangerous.

Authorities are on the lookout for this goose, who is considered armed and dangerous.

Avian cholera outbreaks are not uncommon, occurring about once a year, according to Rick Swart of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. A relatively recent outbreak in the Klamath Basin in Southern Oregon was caused, in part, by low water levels, which forced high numbers of migrating geese and other birds into a smaller area.

“The danger,” Swart says, “is that the cholera gets in the water and then it infects other birds.”

Avian cholera does not pose a threat to humans. It can easily spread to other animals, however. Murder, if that is in fact the culprit, can affect pretty much any living creature at any time, so watch your back around strange geese, just in case.

As with every dead bird outbreak, it is requested that bird watchers and outdoorspeople who see anything unusual report it to the ODFW ASAP.

Photo credit: e_monk / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA