One of the worst bird die-offs in a decade has taken place in Oregon’s Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. Avian cholera caused the die-off, but overcrowding of birds led to the increased transmission of the infectious disease. A lack of water, due to low rain fall and water use by humans, left their wetlands habitat dry, so they huddled together in the few remaining wet areas they could find. Snow geese, American coot, American wigeon, the white-fronted goose and northern pintail were some of the species impacted by the disease and lack of water.
Between February and the first week of April, wildlife workers and volunteers picked up nearly 3,800 deceased birds and placed them away from the live ones, to reduce the spread of avian cholera, a disease that does not harm humans. Officials estimated between 10,000 and 20,000 birds died when the disease outbreak took place.
“The consequences to shutting off water to the Lower Klamath Refuge are enormous and unacceptable. We cannot continue to place wildlife at the bottom of the pecking order,” said George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy. (Source: SF Gate)
Striking a balance between all the water users in the region has been a tricky endeavor for some time. A proposed plan to dismantle four hydro-electric dams on the Klamath River would allow more water for wildlife refuges and open up much more habitat for migrating steelhead trout, chinook and coho salmon. There has been some opposition to this plan by some agricultural interests such as ranchers because they are concerned their energy costs might increase and they will get less water.
One major oversight in the water management balancing scenario, is human population planning. If the human population keeps growing natural resources will continue to be plundered to the detriment of the other species on the planet, and yet human population planning doesn’t typically seem to be even mentioned in media about natural resource management.
Image Credit: Cephas