Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Avian Botulism on Lake Michigan's North Shore

In October, my parents visited Wilderness State Park and were both surprised and distressed to find dozens of waterfowl corpses littered along the beach. They identified both grebes and loons, most of the bodies quite fresh, wet feathers and webbed feet glistening in the sun. Shortly thereafter, they learned that it was avian botulism that had killed all of these birds.

Earlier this month, Absolute Michigan ran a story about this outbreak of avian botulism, and how it is related to zebra and quagga mussels, as well as the round goby -- all invasive species to the Great Lakes.

Also published were 15 superb photographs of these dead birds, as well as a short movie of a dying long-tailed duck, by filmmaker George Desort. The photographs are beautiful and emotive, and also sad and angering, especially since invasive species -- introduced by humans -- are the root cause for the deaths of these animals.

The movie is sad and disturbing, but somehow beautiful:


Long tailed duck from george desort on Vimeo.


I have had nightmares about finding dying, suffering animals. If I had been the one to happen upon this struggling duck, would I have been brave enough to put it out of its misery? Or does one let nature take its course, even if that course has already been altered by humans and invasive species?

Today, the corpses of these birds are buried beneath not only sand, but snow, as well. In the spring, they will be long-gone.

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