Biologist Lewnanny Richardson has never seen the amount of dead birds he has seen in the past three weeks on the coast of the Acadian Peninsula in his 22-year career.
The Species at risk Program Director for Nature NB, a conservation focused non-profit, said in an interview on Monday that he first noticed a large amount of dead gannets while he was surveying the Facterie-à-Bastien beach as part of his research on piping plovers in late May.
“The first day we saw three (dead birds). The day after, we saw 22 on a two-kilometre beach. After that, it started to get in the big numbers like 100 and a 150,” he said.
He said while he isn’t yet concerned about how this will impact the large population of gannets, he is alarmed by the sheer volume of dead birds he’s seen in such a short amount of time.
After researching the strange behaviour of a live gannet he came across, he suspects avian flu is to blame.
“I’ve even seen birds that I’ve never been able to see in my life, like the common murre,” he said.
“Last time we were on the beach I was able to count 20 of them. So imagine, I’ve never seen them in 22 years and saw 20 dead on the same day.”
He said the province’s Department of Natural Resources cleaned 196 dead birds from the beach on Friday. On Monday morning, he only observed three or four dead birds.
“Usually we see a lot of northern gannets flying every day, (Monday) morning there were none. That’s not usual,” he said.
New Brunswick poultry farmers concerned about avian flu
The province’s Department of Natural Resources declined an interview with Global News, instead sending a statement saying the public should report sightings of dead birds to their Department, who will deal with them on a case-by-case basis.
While avian flu has been a regular concern for poultry farmers since it first appeared in Canada in the 1960s, Chicken Farmers of Canada Communications Director Lisa Bishop-Spencer said this strain is particularly worrisome, as there are currently active cases in eight provinces, which has never happened before.
She said in an interview on Monday that this iteration of the bird flu is highly pathogenic.
“So if it’s getting in the barn as a highly pathogenic form, it can wipe out a flock very quickly,” she explained.
Farmers across the country are taking extra precautions like locking down their farms and rigorously cleaning any incoming vehicles.
These additional measures can create challenges as farmers are already dealing with extra costs such as the rising price of fuel.
“Financially it’s very stressful for (the farmers). What they’re trying to do is avoid the additional stress of an incursion on their actual farm so it’s worth whatever measures have to be taken.”
However, she said Canadians don’t need to be concerned about eating poultry.
“The chances (avian flu infected chicken) ever making it into the food stream is extremely low and if it were, then just cooking it will kill (the virus),” she said.
This content was originally published here.