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OC ducks getting sick, dying, but other fowl unaffected

September 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Dozens of dead and dying ducks are turning up in Southern California ponds. What's making them sick is a mystery.

The city of Lake Forest has issued a warning to the public not to feed ducks. It may be making them ill.

A variety of birds frequents the area, including seagulls and Canadian geese, but so far only mallard ducks are getting sick and dying.

Kelly Beavers cares for a female mallard duck. The adult bird was too sick to eat on its own. It arrived at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach Saturday.

"They're showing signs of toxicity. When they came in, their head was down, kind of like a botulism that we've had before, but don't know what it is," said Kelly Beavers, a wildlife technician at Wetlands And Wildlife Care Center.

Officials say the mallard is one of about 30 ducks that have turned up dead or sick at some ponds or lakes around Lake Forest in the last couple of weeks. Authorities are performing water tests.

"They tested and they said it's non-toxic, but we're not sure why this species is being affected and not the other ones," said Beavers.

So far only mallard ducks are showing symptoms of botulism poisoning.

Several months ago, the city put up signs warning people not to feed the birds.

"They're not going to migrate. They're not going to move on. They're going to stay in that area. They're going to pollute the pond. The bread in the pond, in the water, is bad for the water itself, because then it pollutes the water and then we start the whole process of the botulism," said Beavers.

Still, some have ignored the signs or are unaware, and think they're helping by feeding ducks leftovers.

While authorities try to figure out why the ducks are getting sick, six birds being treated at the care center are getting better as workers continue to flush out the toxins.

"She is eating, so that's a good sign when they start eating," said Beavers.

At Village Pond Park in Lake Forest, the signs warning against feeding waterfowl are clearly posted.

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