Biologist Lewnanny Richardson has never seen the amount of dead birds he has seen in the past three weeks on the coast of the Acadian Peninsula during his 22-year career.
The director of the Species at Risk program at Nature NB, a conservation-focused nonprofit, said in an interview Monday that he first noticed a large amount of dead gannets while surveying Facterie-à-Bastien beach as part of his research on piping plovers at the end of May.
“The first day we saw three (dead birds). The next day we saw 22 of them on a two kilometer beach. After that he started getting big numbers like 100 and 150,” he said.
He said that while he is not yet concerned about the impact this will have on the large gannet population, he is alarmed by the sheer volume of dead birds he has seen in such a short time. .
After studying the strange behavior of a live gannet he encountered, he suspects bird flu is to blame.
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“I even saw birds that I had never seen in my life, like the common murre,” he says.
“The last time we were on the beach I could count 20. So imagine, I’ve never seen them in 22 years and I’ve seen 20 dead on the same day.
He said the province’s Department of Natural Resources cleaned up 196 dead birds from the beach on Friday. Monday morning, he only observed three or four dead birds.
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“Usually you see a lot of gannets flying every day, (Monday) morning there were none. It’s not usual,” he said.
New Brunswick poultry farmers concerned about avian flu
The province’s Department of Natural Resources declined an interview with Global News, instead sending a statement saying the public should report sightings of dead birds to their department, which will deal with them on a case-by-case basis.
While avian flu has been a regular concern for poultry farmers since it emerged in Canada in the 1960s, Lisa Bishop-Spencer, communications director for Chicken Farmers of Canada, said this strain is of particular concern because there are currently cases active in eight provinces, which has never happened before.
“Canadians should be very concerned about their food supply,” says New Brunswick farmer
She said in an interview Monday that this iteration of bird flu is highly pathogenic.
“So if it enters the barn in a highly pathogenic form, it can wipe out a herd very quickly,” she explained.
Farmers across the country are taking extra precautions, such as locking down their farms and rigorously cleaning all incoming vehicles.
These additional measures can create difficulties as farmers already face additional costs such as rising fuel prices.
“Financially, it’s very stressful for (farmers). What they’re trying to do is avoid the added stress of foraying into their current farm, so it’s worth taking all the necessary steps.
However, she said Canadians need not worry about eating poultry.
“The odds of (bird flu infected chicken) ending up in the food stream are extremely low and if it did, just cooking it would kill (the virus),” she said.
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