Botulism suspected in death of Lake Forest ducks
Ducks have been dying in the Orange County city of Lake Forest of what officials suspect is botulism, and officials are placing part of the blame on well-meaning residents who throw bread crumbs to the birds.
Debbie McGuire, wildlife director at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, said she has heard reports of about 30 cases, and the center is treating six ducks, four of them in critical condition. Some of the birds the center has treated have recovered and been released, but others have died.
The Orange County Register first reported the epidemic, saying that residents have found dead birds in the lakes at the Lake I and Lake II communities and at Village Pond Park and Forest Gardens Mobile Home Park.
While the birds are showing symptoms of botulism, which affects the nervous system, McGuire said that for cost reasons, the center has been unable to test them. She added, however, that the Orange County Vector Control District has offered to pay for testing any other birds that die.
Bread crumbs can feed the bacteria that cause botulism, which requires warm temperatures, a protein source and a lack of oxygen to grow.
"Saying bread causes botulism is a bit of a stretch, but it definitely adds to the problem," McGuire said.
The city has put out signs asking people not to feed the ducks but has no formal enforcement mechanism in place, the Register reported.
-- Abby Sewell
Image: Map shows location of Village Pond Park in Lake Forest, where residents found dead ducks in the lake. Source: Google Maps