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Avian flu? Cornell lab tests Webster geese found dead in park

This stock image shows a flying Canada goose.
Adobe Stock
This stock image shows a flying Canada goose.

After nearly two dozen geese were found dead in a Webster Park, wildlife experts are looking into whether an avian flu outbreak was the cause.

The first of the Canada geese were found on Saturday at Charles Sexton Memorial Park, formerly North Ponds Park, according to the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation and the town of Webster. The park is located by Holt Road and Route 104.

A resident called the parks department over the weekend about two dead birds, said Webster communications director Bridget Harvey. One was on the shoreline of a pond and another in the grass. More were found in the following days.

“The Parks Department is taking incredible steps to monitor the situation — and they have had a great experience working with the DEC — and making sure information is being provided to residents and that we're acting on this as quickly as possible,” Harvey said.

Workers with the DEC took the birds’ bodies to the Cornell Wildlife Health lab in Ithaca where specialists will test for avian flu, Harvey said.

Since the end of November, there have been outbreaks of the disease detected in several states including Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, according to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

“This is not limited to Webster, this issue,” she said. “We've been informed by the DEC that this was kind of an issue that's being seen fairly widespread.”

The DEC warns that newer strains of avian flu have a high mortality rate among wild and domestic birds. Cases in humans are rare and usually mild. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people, particularly hunters, minimize exposure by using protective measures.

The state DEC advises anyone who spots a sick or dead bird to contact their regional office, which would be the department’s Region 8 for the Greater Rochester area.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.