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Something disturbing is happening at city parks in Murray and Salt Lake City -- ducks are dying. According to disease biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), it's avian botulism, a disease that slowly paralyzes the ducks.
Patti Richards, with Great Basin Wildlife Rescue, is currently rehabilitating two mallards affected by the latest outbreak of avian botulism. "I started them off with Pedialyte, getting them re-hydrated a little more," she said. Without the help of her organization, the ducks would die.
"To know that they're maybe sitting in a pond and getting ignored, I don't like the idea of a slow and painful death," Richards said.
This summer, avian botulism has been reported in Sugarhouse Park, Liberty Park and Murray Park.
Leslie McFarlane, a wildlife disease coordinator with the DWR, said, "When we get really warm temps and we get anaerobic conditions because of algaes and things that grow in the water, it produces a toxin. And when the birds ingest the toxin it causes a paralyzing disease."
The outbreaks happen across the nation every year. Waterfowl that drink infected water or eat bugs carrying the disease are affected by the toxin. "It doesn't affect people; we think it may be able to affect dogs," McFarlane said.
Officials recommend you keep pets away from dead carcasses and call Animal Control to remove them. Other than that, there's little that can be done to prevent the spread or help the birds.
Great Basin Wildlife Rescue is full, as are other rehabilitation organizations in the state. "The supportive car it needs is really off the charts," Richards said.
If you do handle one of the dead or dying ducks, the DWR says to wash your hands well, and you should be fine.