Botulism Likely Cause of Duck Deaths in Beach Haven West

Residents Told Not to Swim in Lagoons
Aug 03, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill NO SWIMMING:  State and local officials have advised residents and visitors not to swim in the Beach Haven West lagoons pending tests on what is causing ducks to die.

The suspected leading cause of duck deaths in Beach Haven West lagoons is botulism, although final results won’t be available for about a week, state Department of Environmental Protection officials said Aug. 4, a day after the ducks were fished from the lagoons in the waterfront community.

“Botulism lives in stagnant waters,” Larry Hajna, a public information officer for the state agency, said late last week, noting runoff from recent rain storms, high temperatures and the fact that lagoons don’t see a lot of moving water all contribute to the brackish conditions. “Botulism grows in confined spaces with low oxygen.”

The DEP’s Fish and Wildlife division collected samples of the ducks removed from the lagoons Aug. 3 for evaluation, he said. Along with the Marine Water division of the DEP, they were monitoring water quality in the lagoons Aug. 4 and found no chemicals. The conditions in the lagoons, he said, were obviously degraded and that promotes algae growth. Samples of algae taken by the state agency last week came back negative for a toxic species, Hajna said Monday afternoon.

Results for other tests weren’t yet available, he said, noting it could be another few days before additional information is available. In the meantime, the public should refrain from swimming in the lagoons, even in good conditions, because lagoon waters are often inactive and breed algae. “People should swim on public beaches where the water is monitored and where there are lifeguards.”

No swimming is the same message Stafford Township issued to residents after becoming aware of the situation Aug. 3. Residents notified animal control and the mayor’s office Thursday morning after they saw the dead ducks. The ducks appeared to be floating in the water, alive, but their heads had fallen into their chests. This set off a chain reaction for local officials, who notified the DEP’s Fish and Wildlife division as well as the Ocean County Board of Health.

“We are also requesting that all residents be extremely vigilant with regard to the waterways and inform the township of any incidences of fish kills or sick birds,” Stafford Township officials said in a statement posted to the township website late in the afternoon Aug. 3.

Anyone who comes across sick, dead or dying wildlife should call local animal control or the health department, said Brian Lippai, public information officer for the Ocean County Board of Health. Under no circumstances should the public be handling diseased, dead or dying animals.

“Common sense dictates that you don’t approach or handle a sickly animal,” he said, “as much as you want to help. It creates a chain reaction.”

Gina G. Scala

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