What to do if you find a sick bird
Who to contact
Policy and Protocol
Dead Birds. On beaches within the park, The Avian Botulism Monitoring Staff and VIPs (Bot. Squad) remove and bury dead birds on adjacent foredune to prevent further spread of disease, prevent scavenging, and prevent attracting predators near piping plover nests.
Avian Botulism. Naturally occurring; became a serious problem here in 2006. The bacterium is always present in the ground and Lake bottom. It is thought that invasive mussels filter water excessively, which causes profuse growth of native cladophora (the green algae often seen on beaches). As water warms and algae decay in thick mats on the bottom, anaerobic conditions develop and the bacteria begins producing toxin. The toxin is concentrated in the invasive round goby and other fish that ingest contaminated plankton and mussels. Birds get sick by eating these contaminated fish or by scavenging other birds containing toxin. This is a neurotoxin which causes paralysis and is usually fatal.
The Park. The Bot. Squad is constantly monitoring beaches. Mainland beaches are walked at least weekly. Our Water Quality Lab tests water weekly for contaminants. Sick or dead birds and fish do not pollute the water on beaches. Touching or eating affected birds or fish on beaches could transmit Bot. toxin or other pathogens to visitors and pets.
We continue to record each affected bird and, together with research partners including U.S.G.S., monitor numerous sampling sites on the mainland, nearshore, offshore, on NMI and SMI. The collection and analysis of scientific data is ongoing and currently comprises the largest complete dataset of its kind in the country. This continues our effort to Preserve and Protect Park Resources, and to inform visitors, staff, and the public about the avian botulism problem.
Did You Know?
There are 21 inland lakes within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Explore one of these small lakes for a close-up view of some of the birds, mammals, and wildflowers protected there. By the way, the fishing is usually great! More...