Northern gannets found dead near Tracadie undergoing tests for avian flu

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At least 18 wild birds have been found dead on the Acadian Peninsula in the past several days. The Northern gannets were found near Tracadie. Their bodies are now being tested for avian flu. (Submitted by Lewnanny Richardson - image credit)
At least 18 wild birds have been found dead on the Acadian Peninsula in the past several days. The Northern gannets were found near Tracadie. Their bodies are now being tested for avian flu. (Submitted by Lewnanny Richardson - image credit)

A biologist with Nature New Brunswick says at least 18 wild birds have been found dead on the Acadian Peninsula in the past several days.

The cause of death is not yet known, but Lewnanny Richardson said the birds have been sent for testing and that avian flu is a possibility.

He said in addition to the 18 dead birds, some that were still alive had tremors – a symptom of avian flu.

Richardson said the situation is worrisome.

"The problem is that the Northern gannet is a colonial species," he said, "They live all together on the Bonaventure Island near Gaspé ... and since it's a colonial species it can transmit the flu really fast."

Dead gannets have also been found on the Magdalen Islands in recent days.

While there are no colonies in New Brunswick, the birds travel to the Maritime provinces to feed, said Richardson, who has been in the field since April.

Submitted by Lewnanny Richardson
Submitted by Lewnanny Richardson

"I've seen my first couple of the Northern gannets that were dead last Wednesday," he said.

From there, Richardson said he saw 11 dead birds on Thursday and his staff began to find more.

Richardson said Environment Canada and Climate Change collected specimens and is performing necropsies on them.

CBC has reached out to the federal department for more information but has not yet heard back.

Richardson advises the public to avoid the birds if they display strange behaviour.

Signs that the bird may carry the flu include prolonged time spent on the beach and shaking.

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