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Cleanup begins at Wasaga Beach after dead birds wash up on shore

Dead birds line a portion of Allenwood Beach just outside of Wasaga Beach, Ont., on Oct. 22, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Benjamin Ricetto.

Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources will begin to clean a long stretch of Georgian Bay, near Wasaga Beach, on Monday after thousands of dead birds washed up on shore.

Crews will only be cleaning provincial parks. Private land owners will have to make their own arrangements to get rid of the birds.

“Everyone is concerned because there’s just so many birds,” one resident told CityNews.

“We’ve never seen this…We’re just stunned and surprised and kind of shocked. It seems that they’ve been coming in any time there’s a storm on the beach, a lot of waves,” she added.

“In all the years we’ve been here, and we’ve been here for over 50 years, we’ve never seen anything even remotely like this,” said resident Rudy Chernecki.

The birds are some loons and grebes, but mostly long-tailed ducks.

They were first spotted on Saturday. Ministry spokesman John Cooper said these kind of deaths have been happening for years.

“We’re not sure exactly what’s happening down there at the bottom of the lake, certainly it’s been increasing in occurrence since about 1998 that we started seeing these events take place…we have no way of stopping it from happening,” said Cooper.
 
However, with up to 6,000 birds believed dead, it is one of the largest die-offs in recent years.

Cooper said botulism is usually the culprit: fish ingest botulism when feeding on the lake bottom and the birds eat the contaminated fish.

On Oct. 27, the Ministry of Natural Resources confirmed that the cause of death was Type E botulism.