The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has received confirmation that avian cholera is present in snow geese sent by the agency for laboratory testing.
The TWRA expected that the birds would test positive for the disease known scientifically as Pasteurella multocida, after neighboring Kentucky recently reported that the disease had been confirmed in geese also sent for lab testing.
The Tennessee birds sent for testing were found dead in Lauderdale County in the western portion of the state, where large populations of snow geese often congregate as they migrate down the Mississippi River flyway.
The agency sent dead geese earlier this week to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) at the University of Georgia, which contacted TWRA today to confirm the disease.
Avian cholera is a bacterium that can be transmitted from bird to bird, contact with secretions or feces from infected birds, or ingestion of food or water containing the bacterium.
The disease is deadly and birds that become infected die quickly. Geese, ducks, coots, gulls, and crows are among the susceptible birds to the disease, also known as fowl cholera.
“One of the concerns about avian cholera surround the carnivores that scavenge on infected animal’s remains,” noted Roger Applegate, the TWRA Wildlife Health Program Leader. “The disease is contagious and can be deadly to animals that consume infected birds.”
Applegate also noted that while confirmation has been received on snow geese, that TWRA has received mortality reports on white-fronted geese and several duck species, but none yet officially confirmed as having died of cholera.
The TWRA has begun searching for more dead geese on its wildlife management areas and waterfowl refuges. Agency personnel will collect and safely dispose of animals found, according to Applegate.
While avian cholera can infect poultry, more often than not this particularly strain of cholera impacts wild birds, according to National Wildlife Health Center.
Sick birds appear lethargic, and when captured may die within minutes. Other signs include convulsions; swimming in circles; throwing the head back between the wings; erratic flight and miscalculated landing attempts; mucous discharge from the mouth; soiling or matting of the feathers around the vent, eyes, and bill; pasty, fawn-colored or yellow droppings; or blood-stained droppings or nasal discharge.
“We just don’t know if this will be a small outbreak or turn into something larger, but we will be watching it every day and closely,” said Applegate. “We are also hoping all the rain taking place will help flush the water and dilute the bacterium.”
Applegate also suggested that waterfowl hunters use caution when cleaning birds.
“Wear gloves, and of course do not consume any birds exhibiting symptoms,” emphasized Applegate. “If waterfowl hunters are finding dead birds on private property, they should also collect them and either burn the remains or bury them deeply.”
However, if hunters or private property owners should find a large quantity of dead geese or other waterfowl, they are asked to notify the agency through this email address: email@example.com