A bacteria that thrives in hot weather may be responsible for last week's deaths of more than 50 geese and ducks at the Ohio Veterans Home property, according to a local wildlife specialist.
Botulism is a bacterium that thrives during hot spells, particularly in ponds where water levels are low.
Back to the Wild founder Mona Rutger, known for her efforts to help sick and injured animals at her rehabilitation center in Castalia, cautioned she cannot prove botulism killed the waterfowl at the veterans home.
But she suspects that may indeed be the case.
Wildlife officers from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources took water samples and samples of dead birds while investigating the deaths last weekend at the Milan Road facility. The agency plans to test the samples in hopes of identifying the reason for the birds' deaths.
Rutger said she's sure botulism sickened a female mallard duck found just across the street from the veterans home. The animal was brought in to Back to the Wild.
People have asked if the birds at the veterans home were deliberately harmed, but Rutger said she doubts that's what happened.
"I think it's the natural toxin," she said.
Botulism outbreaks kill flocks of birds along the Lake Erie shoreline every year, she said.
Larry Smith, a retired New Departure worker who lives at 3519 Columbus Ave. -- across the street from the veterans home cemetery -- said a pair of ducks often like to live in his yard.
Smith said that around June 20, he noticed a woman who stopped her car in his driveway because she was concerned about an apparently injured duck.
Smith helped the woman put the duck in a basket, and it was then taken to Back to the Wild.
When Smith later called the wildlife center to see how the duck was doing, he learned the animal had not been struck by a car -- it had been poisoned. The duck is recovering.
Rutger said the poison appears to be natural, and she's certain the duck had botulism poisoning because the animal's symptoms match the description.
Two sick ducks from the Ohio Veterans Home were also taken to Back to the Wild, but they later died.