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nate larson

Thousands of bluebills dead on Winni

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Did any of you happen to witness this?

Thousands of bluebills dead since Thursday

Sam Cook

Duluth News Tribune - 11/06/2007

Dan Markham and Noel Hill of Duluth were setting up to hunt ducks on Lake Winnibigoshish near Deer River on Saturday when they noticed a dead bluebill on shore. A quick walk along the shore turned up another three dozen dead bluebills.

Waterfowl biologists with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources estimate that as many as 3,000 bluebills, also known as lesser scaup, may have died along the west shore of Lake Winnie.

The die-off began Thursday, said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist in Bemidji. Biologists believe the cause is a microscopic trematode, a kind of fluke, present in snails that the bluebills are feeding on.

Cordts thinks the die-off could continue. “We’re going to find a lot more dead,” he said in a telephone interview Monday.

Cordts and other DNR employees collected about 1,000 dead bluebills from a stretch of shoreline on Friday. In the time it took to collect about 900 of those birds, another 30 to 50 had died in the same stretch.

“This is potentially pretty bad because of this snail,” Cordts said. “The trematode is likely brand new to the system. It could be along the whole stretch of the Mississippi River and could get into other lakes and into other species. It’s way too early to speculate a lot.”

“We were just heartbroken,” Markham said. “It’s depressing.”

The die-off also has affected coots, Cordts said, although most coots have already left Lake Winnie. He didn’t know how many bluebills remained on the lake.

The snail that apparently is a host of the trematode is the banded mystery snail, Cordts said. It was first documented on Lake Winnie eight years ago by fisheries biologists.

“It’s been concentrated on the west side [of the lake],” he said. “Its numbers have really exploded.”

Die-offs of waterfowl due to trematodes have occurred in the spring and fall since about 2002 on the Mississippi River near Winona, Minn., Cordts said, though not in numbers as high as those on Lake Winnie.

DNR officials sent a few ducks to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., on Thursday. An initial inspection turned up the trematode identification in one duck, but DNR officials were waiting Monday for confirmation of that in other samples.

Hunters or others should not eat any duck that appears to be obviously diseased, Cordts said. Hunters should use latex gloves when cleaning their ducks.

Cordts said he doesn’t know of any other major waterfowl die-offs due to trematodes other than those near Winona. Controlling the snail that serves as a host would be “almost impossible,” he said.

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I read that in the paper this morning and thought a guy should try to spook them off the lake but hopefully the weather will move them a little farther south.

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I did not witness "thousands" of them, but I hunted Winnie the last weekend in October on the NW shore. I killed 5 ducks, 3 were with my bare hands, and probably could have done the same with the other two, if I would have wanted to chase them. I also found one other one dead on shore. Once I saw this, I knew something had to be up and called the DNR when I got home. So it was going on then and sure seems to be increasing. Who knows but it is not good. Hope this gets solved.

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Is there any info on the flukes in humans? I have a bad gash on my leg that was healing nicely until last tuesday when I got soaked loading the boat,by wensday I had blisters all around it.I went to the doc on monday and he said I have a staff infection.

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Pikeslayer,

If you google trematodes (flukes), they can cause skin issues like swimmer's itch. I'd keep an eye on it and go back in if it doesn't go away.

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Thanks Ill google it and see what it says,I called my doc.and am waiting for a reply.It kind of looks like swimmers itch though and I was in the weeds.

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PS:

I don't think I would worry about it too much, unless there were snails attached to the wound. Keep an eye on it though.

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Thanks for the thought,but after reading about it on google I just dont know what to think.I sure wish it would just go away, I've got vennie hanging in the garage that needs to be tended to and the doc has me setting in the house! mad.gif

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Geez, the bills can't buy a break. Their numbers are plummeting and now this. I seriously almost got sick reading that post. I'm only 23 and I can remember how good the hunting use to be just 11 years ago when I started, and how much the bill shoot has declined in recent years is just stagering. What can be done to help this poor bird out?

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