Wildlife enthusiast has reported suspected bird flu in Findhorn Bay to the authorities after 80 geese deaths
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A LOCAL wildlife enthusiast has been distressed to find what he believes are large numbers of geese suffering - and dying - from bird flu.
On Friday, March 25, Spencer Julian found 12 dead geese - mostly Pink-footed - and a sick goose in the south east corner of Findhorn Bay - he has since spotted more than eight sick and 80 deceased.
He said: "I was shocked to find them despite knowing bird flu is widespread in the UK. I called out the SSPCA and we found six of the eight sick geese I had reported. Some were very lethargic and seemed to be not far off from the end of their lives.
"Others tried to fly but could not and were acting in a confused manner. Most were nodding their heads with all the strength they had left.
"All of these six were euthanised and will be tested for bird flu by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)."
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has been confirmed in Scotland and in other parts of the UK. Restrictions and prevention measures are in place all over, including as closely as Aberdeenshire.
A UK-wide Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) was introduced in November and includes the requirement to house birds. This means strict biosecurity measures for all bird keepers to help prevent the spread of avian influenza from wild birds or any other source.
Avian influenza viruses can be classified according to their ability to cause severe disease (pathogenicity) as either highly pathogenic or low pathogenic.The current strain of concern is a highly pathogenic H5N1.
Typically this form presents suddenly, often with very high mortality, with affected birds developing swollen heads, a blue colouration of the comb and wattles, dullness, lack of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and significant drop in egg production.
However, there can be considerable variation in the clinical picture and severity of the disease.
Spencer confirmed that the three SSPCA officers told him that the geese showed symptoms of bird flu but would not know for certain until they studied the test results.
He said: "I’ve read on official websites that it is possible for humans to catch bird flu spread through their faeces which is currently rife in the bay.
"It's important that if someone ventures into the bay, they clean their footwear, and the feet of their dogs, afterwards. I have friends who keep waterfowl and chickens - it's possible to pass on bird flu via infected faeces on footwear."
If anyone finds sick wildfowl at Findhorn Bay, call the SSPCA on 0300 099 9999. Anyone finding dead wildfowl at the bay is encouraged to call DEFRA on 0345 9335577.
The Gazette has contacted the SSPCA and DEFRA for comment.
Spencer contacted Moray MSP to let him know about his discovery.
Mr Lochhead said: "I’m in touch with DEFRA so as to get regular updates on the situation in the bay, as I know that local residents who enjoy using the bay will be concerned.
"It is important to remind people that they should not touch or pick up any dead or sick birds that they come across in the bay."