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Intestinal Parasite Killing Swans and Geese Around Wolf Lake

Provided by Bob Luakcsek
Northwest Indiana Times

HAMMOND - Wildlife officials have confirmed the presence of a parasitic flatworm in wild swans from Wolf Lake in Hammond.  According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, diagnostic testing was conducted at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

Mute swans examined by the USGS had fatal infections of an intestinal parasite, Sphaeridiotrema globulus that causes death in many species of waterfowl.  Swans also tested negative for toxic levels of lead.

The cause of death of the Canada geese collected from the same area could not be determined, but Mitch Marcus, fish & wildlife health supervisor for the Indiana DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife said several things were ruled-out.

"The geese and the swans both tested negative for avian influenzia and then the geese were negative for bacterial and viral infections, they were negative for lead poisoning,
there was no heavy metals or salt toxicity found," Marcus says. "There were no toxic organic compounds found and the birds were negative for Botulism poisoning."

Snails consumed by swans and other waterfowl is believed to have served as an intermediate host for the parasite.

The most dead Canada geese were found over about a week in late February and deaths subsided in early March. Mute swan deaths were not observed until early March.

Marcus, says the DNR, along with state, federal and private partners, has been monitoring migratory bird populations in the area and mortality seems to have subsided.  Anyone who comes across  waterfowl that appear to be sick should report it.

"Report that using our online reporting tool and basically from that tool was designed to report sick or dead wildlife found in the state of Indiana and the website for that reporting tool is on.in.gov/sickwildlife," Marcus says.

The parasite that infected the swans poses no known risk to humans, pets, or the commercial poultry industry.

Sharon Jackson is the local host of "All Things Considered" and a reporter for Lakeshore Public Radio. She has been with 89.1 FM since its launch in 2009. Sharon is also a radio DJ in Chicago, and has been since 2004. In her previous job at Metro Networks/Westwood One, she was heard on am 890 WLS, WGN radio 720 am and am 560 WIND. She has also delivered news and traffic reports on radio stations all over Chicago and the suburbs including 95.9 The River, 98.3 WCCQ and Star 96.7.