Gosh. And there never were any droughts before, right?
The deaths of up to 20,000 migrating birds this year in a wildlife refuge near the Oregon border has renewed debate about resource management on the Klamath River, where myriad competing interests are fighting for water rights.
The waterfowl began dropping dead from avian cholera in February after a lack of water forced as many as 2 million birds to bunch together in the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, said representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Experts said a lack of rain during peak migration and water delivery obligations by the Bureau of Reclamation left sensitive wetlands along the Pacific Flyway dry. The result was the worst die-off in the region in about a decade.
In normal years the whole refuge is flooded, but “only about half the acres on the refuge were flooded going into this spring,” said Matthew Baun, the spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service. “We had more than the normal number of migrating waterfowl this year coming into the refuge. What that did was concentrate the birds on about half the wetlands, which enhanced disease transmission.”
Biologists and volunteers disposed of thousands of carcasses in an attempt to prevent the further spread of the disease. The problem seems to have dissipated as the spring rain helped fill the wetlands and fewer birds showed up in April as the migration wound down, Baun said. Birders and other environmental groups nevertheless point to the die-off as another example of resource mismanagement.