DWR suspects avian botulism outbreak killed birds in northern Utah

Oct 5, 2023, 9:00 PM

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources suspects an outbreak of avian botulism as the cause of deat...

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources suspects an outbreak of avian botulism as the cause of death for thousands of birds in northern Utah. Photo credit: Division of Wildlife Resources.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says a recent suspected avian botulism outbreak in northern Utah has killed thousands of birds. 

Biologists with the DWR first discovered the infected birds during the middle part of September. The birds were found in the Harold Crane and Willard Spur waterfowl management areas.

Many of the affected birds were tested for avian influenza. The DWR says those test results came back negative. 

Additionally, the DWR also says that while final test results are still pending, biologists believe the birds died of avian botulism.

What is avian botulism?

According to a press release from the DWR, the illness is a paralytic disease that results in the ingestion of a toxin produced by a bacteria. The disease is usually fatal. 

The bird species usually impacted by the disease are shorebirds, waterfowl, and gulls.  Signs of the disease include the following:

  • In ability of a bird to hold its head up.
  • Bird is unable to flap its wings.
  • No strength to take off and fly.

Safety tips

Due to the large number of birds impacted by the disease, the DWR is offering individuals with some safety tips. The DWR stresses the risk of avian botulism transmitting to humans is low.

“It is still important to practice the following safety precautions if you encounter sick or dead birds,” the news release said.

The tips are as follows:

  • As an indication that they are healthy, harvest only waterfowl that are actively flying.
  • If a bird appears sick or weak, avoid harvesting it.
  • Thoroughly cook the meat.
  • Dogs can be affected by botulism. Keep dogs away from any waterfowl you suspect may be sick.



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DWR suspects avian botulism outbreak killed birds in northern Utah