Already thousands of birds died of bird flu in Quebec

Bird flu has spread to many regions of Quebec, affecting several species and has already killed thousands of birds. However, the ministries involved in monitoring the spread of the virus do not count the deaths that accumulate. And it is now suspected that the virus also kills St. Lawrence seals.

While the peak tourist season is in full swing on the Magdalen Islands, bird carcasses, especially those of northern gannets, are still present on the islands’ beaches. Between June 15 and July 5, no fewer than 3,843 birds were found dead, bringing the number to more than 5,000 carcasses recorded in the region since the start of the epidemic among wild birds in Quebec. The virus was first discovered in Canada last fall, in Newfoundland, in highly migratory gulls.

According to data from the municipality of Îles-de-la-Madeleine, certain days clearly illustrate the extent of the phenomenon. Thus, on 30 June, 825 bodies were collected over a stretch of six kilometers of beach in the Dune du Sud sector. And over a period of four days, 1540 dead birds were found in this area of ​​the islands.

The impressive colony of northern gannets on Bonaventure Island, which numbers more than 100,000 individuals, has also been hit by bird flu. The director of the Parc national de l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, Rémi Plourde, estimates that around 450 northern gannets have so far been found dead on the island off Percé and visited by almost 60,000 tourists each. summer. However, he stresses that this count is not exhaustive as crazy people can fall into the water or die elsewhere. Several were also found dead, especially in the Gaspé sector.

Mr. Plourde adds that the spread of the virus may have an impact on the reproductive success of the colony, as chickens may become orphaned. However, he wants to be reassuring. “It is not very scientific, but I have the impression that there is a kind of stability and not a galloping growth of gannets that we would find dead. That’s what I’m seeing right now, “he said Have to. “I do not have the impression that we are in anything exponential. »

According to other information obtained by The duty, deaths among gannets on Bonaventure Island could be far more than Mr Plourde thinks. And in this colony, where the birds live very close to each other, so without any social distancing, the H5N1 virus can have serious consequences.

Veterinarian Stéphane Lair, director of the Quebec Center for Wild Animal Health, argues that it is too early to measure the extent of the losses for this colony, but also for the other bird populations affected by the virus. He believes, however, that they should normally be able to recover, although the deaths are likely to be very numerous.

No one counts

One thing is for sure, tourists visiting Île Bonaventure, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspésie or Côte-Nord can expect to see birds in bad shape, pain or death over the next few years weeks. According to the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP), “we must now consider that the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 has spread to all regions of Quebec”.

The pan-Canadian website, which monitors the development of bird flu, also shows that the virus is actually present on a large scale in Quebec. In particular, cases have been identified in the Montreal region, in Estrie, in Mauricie, in the Quebec region and in Lac-Saint-Jean.

Several bird species are affected. According to the MFFP, “the virus causes more significant mortality in seabirds in the estuary and St. Lawrence Bay,” especially gannets, common eider ducks, gulls and herring gulls. The other infected species are waterfowl (snow geese, Canada geese, ducks), birds of prey (including bald eagles) and corvettes.

The MFFP and the Ministry of Environment and Combating Climate Change (MELCC) both stated that they do not count the bird carcasses in the context of this bird flu epidemic. “Recycling dead birds is a municipal responsibility,” MELCC said.

In recent weeks, seals have also been found dead on the U.S. East Coast, killed by bird flu virus. According to Dr Lair, it is reasonable to believe that St. The Lawrence seals, like the harbor seal, can also be affected by the virus. An increase in estuary deaths has also been observed this year, and analyzes are underway.

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