Clean-up began Tuesday around the shores of Utah Lake of approximately 6,000 ducks and geese that died this past month from an outbreak of botulism there.
According to officials of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources the worst of the outbreak is over and that ducks and geese resting on the lake now "appear to be in good health."They also report that the loss of waterfowl will have little or no effect on the upcoming waterfowl hunt, which opens Oct. 8.
According to Brent Hutchings, waterfowl biologist for the DWR, the outbreak was not unexpected, "only the location was.
"This is a problem we face every summer. What makes this case unique is that this is the first time we have had an outbreak at Utah Lake. Back in 1982, we lost over 100,000 ducks on the Great Salt Lake."
The disease develops from a combination of decaying animals and plants, receding water and hot temperatures. Ducks feeding in stagnant pools contract the disease and eventually die.
"We haven't had a problem with botulism the past few years because of the high levels of the lakes. Now, with the waters receding, we are having some losses. This, however, is a small outbreak compared to many we've had," he said.
Hutchings added that officers checking the lake on Tuesday and Wednesday saw very few sick ducks, but a lot of healthy, flying ducks and geese.
He also said that hunters needn't be concerned over the loss. He said it involves a very small segment of the waterfowl population presently in the state. Flights of ducks and geese from the north have also started and will continue into December.
The waterfowl hunt will open Oct. 8 for both ducks and geese. Because of continued droughts in breeding areas in the northern United States and in Canada, this year's duck hunt was shortened and limits lowered to four ducks daily. The population of geese is up this year.