By WECT Staff | March 9, 2021 at 2:59 PM EST – Updated March 9 at 3:07 PM
RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) – Officials at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission say they’ve received “a concerning number” of reports over the last few weeks of dead birds, including goldfinches and pine siskins, found in yards across the state.
After an examination of the dead animals, state biologists say preliminary results point to salmonellosis, a common bacterial disease often fatal in songbirds that frequent bird feeders.
Officials say the sick birds may appear thin, fluffed up, depressed, have swollen eyelids or may have trouble passing waste. They are often lethargic and easy to approach.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we are recommending that if you own a bird feeder you should clean it frequently with a dilute bleach solution (no more than 1-part bleach to 9-parts water) and allow the feeder to dry completely before refilling,” stated Wildlife Biologist Greg Batts of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
“If you suspect salmonellosis, the only option is to remove the feeder completely for a period of two to three weeks,” he added.
Cases of salmonellosis in birds have been spiking around the southeastern United States, according to wildlife officials, and the troubling increase has biologists on alert.
While removing bird feeders may not be a popular solution, officials say it’s an imperative one for the health of the birds.
“Even after intensive cleaning, re-contamination commonly occurs where birds are being fed because the disease is shed by feces and some birds are carriers. Consequently, it is not recommended that people scatter bird seed on the ground either because birds can acquire salmonellosis while feeding together in these situations also,” a news release stated.
Pets that eat the dead or dying birds, as well as humans who handle the animals, are also at risk of contracting the disease.
“When disposing of bird carcasses, always wear gloves, bury or double bag the animal before disposing it in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water,” according to the release.
The Wildlife Commission urges North Carolinians to report any suspected salmonellosis cases to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Wildlife Helpline at 1-866-318-2401 or by emailing them at HWI@ncwildlife.org.
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