Mysterious deaths of bald eagles in Utah (UPDATE: West Nile virus)

We have an update on this story. See below.

Originallly published Dec 21, 2013
Concerning. Utah wildlife officials confirm that 12 bald eagles have died in northern Utah just this month and the cause is unknown.

Fifth Utah eagle dies, another shows signs of mystery malady | The Salt Lake Tribune.

A fifth bald eagle suffering from a mysterious malady has been euthanized, a sixth is receiving treatment — and the outbreak now includes seven more eagles found dead in the wild.

As the mystery persists. Erickson is afraid “what we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Preliminary results from the first birds’ tests for illnesses including West Nile virus, lead poisoning and avian cholera are expected to arrive late this week or early next week from the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis.

Results from more thorough testing to hone in on the exact cause of the deaths will likely not be available until after Christmas.

The animals suffer from tremors and lower body paralysis. Surrounding states have not reported similar incidents and the official fear whatever the disease is, it may be transmissible as the birds migrate to Utah for food. Also reported are mass bird deaths of approximately 1,000 eared grebes on the Great Salt Lake and 150 northern shovelers on Interstate 80 just south of the Lake.

Report sick birds to your state wildlife agency.

UPDATE: West Nile virus blamed for rash of bald eagle deaths in Utah – latimes.com.

Utah wildlife experts believe they have solved the mystery of what killed at least 29 bald eagles over the last month: West Nile virus.
The majestic birds, the national symbol of the United States, apparently became infected after eating smaller birds with the disease, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Wildlife officials think that they may have been infected from eating grebes, since a recent die-off of eared grebes that stop at Utah’s Great Salt Lake determined that they died from something other than usual causes. The good news is, this is containable and probably does not pose a widespread threat.

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  4 comments for “Mysterious deaths of bald eagles in Utah (UPDATE: West Nile virus)

  1. Lagaya1
    December 21, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    Eagles do a fair amount of scavenging, and will get lead poisoning when they ingest lead shot from eating downed animals; but I’ve never heard of lead poisoning happening en masse. I’d be surprised if it is from lead poisoning.

  2. December 22, 2013 at 4:52 PM

    in the absence of very much data, I’ll go with poisoning of some sort, probably something in the water, taken up by fish, then eaten by birds. Shot is not the only possible source of lead/heavy metal. Could be some industrial form of lead or some other heavy metal, dumped into river/lakes.

    “In Lead toxicity in birds , there may be neurological signs (seizures, blindness and head tilt) or a wing droop or leg paralysis.”

  3. January 1, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Saw on the CBS news last night that this is attributed to West Nile Virus.

  4. January 3, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    Well if its WNV then its likely still spreading into the avain population and other die offs will occur, its hardly contained.

    The crow population in my part of Connecticut still hasn’t really recovered from the initial spread in the ’90’s. Its a nasty way to go and I put several birds down because I couldn’t stand watching them suffer.

    Its also royally unpleasant if you do end up symptomatic – worse headache I ever had (and I’ve had headaches due to cyanide poisoning), body ache like the flu on steroids, fever – only the total exhaustion that kept me knocked out made it at all bearable.

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