2,000 migrating snow geese fell from the sky in eastern Idaho over the past few days potentially due to an outbreak of avian cholera.
The Idaho Game and Fish Department have been spending the past couple days picking up at least 2,000 dead geese near the towns of Terreton and Roberts in eastern Idaho. The likely cause of death is avian cholera which causes birds to seize up and die mid-flight.
The snow geese were migrating from the Southwest and Mexico to their breeding grounds on the north coast of Alaska. As of yet, it is unknown where the birds may have picked up the disease. Birds can catch avian cholera very quickly, showing no signs of illness, usually causing them to die while flying and ultimately fall out of the sky.
Geese, coots, crows, and gulls are the most susceptible to avian cholera. The disease can be spread by bird-to-bird contact, secretion or feces from an infected animal, or from water or soil that has the bacteria present. Local wildlife officials are now cleaning up the dead, infected birds as quickly as possible so as to avoid other infected animals. People have already witnessed about 20 bald eagles, natural scavengers, picking at the dead infected snow geese.
The disease can live in the soil and in water for months and can be transmitted even by birds landing and splashing in a body of water, also known as aerial transmission. This is alarming for officials, as the only way to fully eradicate the disease is by culling the entire flock. The problem is, the disease is virtually invisible.
Birds show no signs of avian cholera and when it does spread, the birds usually die within 6-12 hours of exposure. The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center says;
Death may be so rapid that birds literally fall out of the sky or die while eating with no previous signs of disease.