Viewpoints: Migratory water birds, refuges need consideration in drought

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By Brigid McCormack, executive director of Audubon California, and Mark Biddlecomb, western regional director of Ducks Unlimited

As we endure the third year of a severe drought, California is confronting serious threats to many animal species and critical habitats. And like the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, California?s birds provide us with a clear warning about the need to plan wisely for drought?s impact on people, agriculture, wildlife and recreation.

Thousands of birds have died in the past few weeks as the result of a suspected avian botulism epidemic sweeping through a wildlife refuge in Northern California. A hundred birds a day are dying at the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge on the Oregon border.

Deadly bird diseases like avian botulism and avian cholera, which do not directly threaten human health, are exacerbated during droughts. Scarce wetland habitat forces migratory water birds like ducks and shorebirds to crowd around the few existing water sources. The resulting overcrowding creates conditions in which these diseases spread.

Read more here: The Sacramento Bee, September 4, 2014

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