Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Fri, March 30 2012 at 3:01 PM, Updated: Fri, March 30 2012 at 3:19 PM
Over 10,000 birds are dead on the Tulelake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge Complex due to an outbreak of avian cholera.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Dave Mauser says the avian cholera outbreak hit about a month ago...
"It happens to some degree every year. It's one of the hot spots in the nation for avian cholera - this year, it's probably worse than it's been in maybe ten or fifteen years."
And when it hits, it's bad. Avian cholera has a high mortality rate - and birds can die within six to twelve hours after contracting the bacteria.
A dry Winter is largely to blame, as many wetland areas have remained dry. With fewer places to go, the birds congregate into what wet areas are left. Mauser notes that adds to the problem...
"The disease tends to spread more readily, the risk of the disease is higher under conditions of overcrowding."
Mauser adds that volunteers in airboats have been helping to pick up the dead birds.
"We try to pick up birds to limit the spread of the bacteria in the environment."
Jim Rhodes is one of those volunteers...
"Last year, we didn't pick up hardly two, three hundred birds - and this year, we're over three thousand now."
Mauser says that a wet Spring is helping to fill up wetland areas...
"Also, we are receiving a significant amount of water from the Bureau of Reclamation right now, we're flooding new marshes, and that helps to spread the birds out."
The outbreak is now on the down side.
To put things in perspective, it's estimated that there are over two million birds in the refuge complex right now. The total mortality rate is less than 1% of the refuge population.
Avian cholera does NOT pose a health threat to humans.
KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970's. He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.
Lyle's job history is quite colorful. He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand. A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90's as a news writer and commercial producer. In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.
Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience. "The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain. Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story".
When he's not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.