Scene: Bird Die-Off at Wasaga Beach
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Scene: Bird Die-Off at Wasaga Beach

Warning: photos are graphic and may be disturbing to some.

WHERE: Allenwood Beach, northeast of Wasaga Beach

WHEN: Monday October 24

WHAT: Over the last while off the shores of Nottawasaga Bay, fish and birds have been startlingly washing up on shore—an estimated 6,000 dead birds on Wasaga Beach this past weekend alone. Though unconfirmed, the cause is strongly suspected to be botulism, specifically type E botulism, which occurs naturally in algae at the bottom of the bay and has been building up to lethal levels in mussels and goby over the past two decades, subsequently working its way up the food chain. As larger fish eat those mussels and goby, they become infected and die, and since birds prey on the fish, the theory goes, now they are infected as well.

Officials are warning the public to keep children and dogs away from the washed up fish and fowl, and asking residents on private property to dispose of the carcasses by burying or bagging the dead for municipal waste. The Ministry of Natural Resources—which is conducting tests to verify the presence of botulism—is also taking care to say that the birds and fish don’t pose an immediate health risk to humans and the water is not toxic, but to wear gloves and wash up if handling the dead. Further waves of die-offs are expected as birds pass through the area on their migration south; MNR officials are saying this is the largest bird die-off the central Ontario region has seen.