Bird flu in Iowa for a few more weeks


Wild Turkey
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | December 7, 2022

Bird flu has been sweeping through Iowa and it is here to stay. According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the most recent case of the virus was found at a Buena Vista County commercial turkey facility. Around 40,000 birds are in that facility. 

Fall and this time of year are when the state sees the most bird migration, usually leading to flocks becoming infected with the contagious bird flu. This was the third case detected in Iowan backyard flocks.  

Waterfowl, like geese and ducks, have also been detected with the virus as hunters have tested them. Orrin Jones, the DNR’s waterfowl biologist said, “It’s very difficult to predict the prevalence of avian influenza based solely on waterfowl activity.” He went on to say, “How common is it out there? What types of birds is it affecting? This new strain is affecting a wider range of species and having a wider range of effects than previous strains. There’s still a lot of uncertainty.” 

About 53 million birds have been killed by the avian influenza, this year in the U.S. This fall, the pathogen was detected in five flocks, leading to the deaths of over two million birds. Although deadly to birds, the virus is not a significant health risk to humans.  

Polar bears continue to move inland as ice melts, creating danger for people


Polar Bear
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 21, 2022

As the ice melts in arctic regions, polar bears are pushed onto land. Their territories will now range into small towns. Researchers in Churchill, Manitoba, also known as the polar bear capital of the world, have begun to explore how to detect the animal’s presence in remote areas through radar technology. The instruments could be in use by next summer.  

Due to polar bears’ aggressive and dangerous nature, they pose a threat to civilization. By using technology that costs thousands of dollars, the animals can be tracked, helping to prevent any unwanted conflict. 

Senior director of conservation and staff scientist, Geoff York, said, “If we’re asking people to conserve a large predator like a polar bear, we have to make sure people who live and work with them are safe.” 

According to York, “Churchill is unique in that bears come to shore, depending on the year, from July to August, and they’re on land until this time of year.” Churchill has around 800 polar bears that roam its shores.  

As rising temperatures and global warming continue to melt ice, polar bears spend more time on land. It’s predicted that a larger number of polar bears will be forced on land and near the town. So, the response program will help to ensure people’s safety.  

Iowa’s 20th case of bird flu found in backyard flock


Chicken
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | October 25, 2022

Bird flu has been detected in a backyard flock in Dallas County. The flock consists of 48 birds of a variety of species. 

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced the infection Thursday, with Iowa’s Agriculture Secretary, Mike Naig saying, “It is not unexpected that we would face additional highly pathogenic avian influenza challenges in Iowa given that the fall migration is underway, and many other states have recently announced confirmed cases.”  

This is the first detection since last May. However, in September hunters found a few birds containing the virus. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is working with other organizations to keep the birds safe and free from contamination.  

Overall, about 13.5 million birds have been found to have bird flu in Iowa. The virus is expected to last through this year and possibly next. According to Yuko Sato, a poultry extension veterinarian and diagnostician at Iowa State University, “It’s here to stay until it clears itself out. Might not be this year. Might be next year.” 

Snow crab population decrease has detrimental effects on Alaska


Crabbing the mouth of the Holy loch .
Via: Flickr

Elyse Gabor | October 19, 2022

Alaska’s snow crab season would be underway, but due to a massive population decrease, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has canceled the snow crab season. Scientists and officials anticipate that the cancellation will help the crab population increase.  

Cran boat captain, Dean Gribble Sr., who has been fishing for crabs for over 50 years said, “It’s going to be life-changing, if not career-ending, for people.” He went on to say, “A lot of these guys with families and kids, there’s no option other than getting out. That’s where the hammer is going to fall — on the crew.” 

Alaskan people rely on snow crab fishing for income, so this year’s cancellation has affected the state’s people and economy. This is the second year in a row that the season has been canceled. Scientists are unaware of why the crabs are disappearing, but global warming and rising temperatures in the oceans are likely reasons, as Alaska is warming at alarming rates.  

Pheasants are seeing a population boom


pheasant
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | September 5, 2022

Recent population surveys show that Iowa’s pheasant population has grown exponentially. This was caused by a lack of snowfall and mild winter conditions.  

According to Todd Bogenschutz, wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, “If hunters enjoyed last year, they should enjoy this year.” 

Over the years, the population of the birds has drastically decreased. It became so low that hunters were able to shoot hens. This is now illegal as hens are vital for increasing the population numbers.  

The decrease in population was likely caused by loss of habitat, especially in hay acres. Numbers have shrunk to half of what they were 30 years ago. The decline is also caused by the weather and harsh winters with many inches of snowfall. However, due to the moderate winter this past year, the birds are experiencing a population boom.  

Pheasant hunting season opens in late October.  

The 2022 Bird Flu May Be Less Impactful than 2015, According to Vilsack


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | April 7, 2022

The effects of the deadly and highly contagious bird flu outbreaks in the United States are expected to be less than those of 2015, when more than 50 million birds were culled, according to Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

“In terms of the nature of the outbreaks, the size of the operations that have been impacted, the number of states that are dealing with backyard operations as opposed to commercial-sized operations, would strongly suggest that when this is all said and done it’s going to be significantly less than what we experienced in 2014-15,” Vilsack said on Tuesday in a call with reporters. 

Vilsack said stricter security measures at poultry facilities and heightened containment efforts after virus detections have reduced the potential for infections and the risk of transporting the virus from one facility to another

Chloe Carson, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, is not as confident because it is still early in the migration season. Carson said no site-to-site infections have been detected in Iowa.  

Company in Le Mars fined $17,000 for fish kills


Dead fish
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | April 5, 2022

According to the DNR, Nor-Am Cold Storage has been fined $17,000 for causing two fish kills.
Based out of Le Mars, the company has polluted a creek nearby with ammonia-laden water. This has occurred twice in the past four years.

The leaks occurred when the refrigeration units on the company’s rooftop were serviced. While performing the tasks, anhydrous ammonia was used as a refrigerant. The ammonia-laden water leaked from a bucket and made its way to a city storm sewer.

The first contamination was discovered in May 2018 when citizens nearby could smell ammonia. The DNR reported that over 20 pounds of ammonia ran into the creek and sewer. The next day, about 50 dead, small fish were reported. Nor-Am spent hours pumping the water out of the creek to prevent the contamination from reaching the Floyd River. The company then agreed to pay a $7,000 fine.

Another fish kill in Le Mars was reported in September 2021. DNR environmental specialist Jacob Simonsen said there were around 20 dead fish near the creek. Soon after, Nor-Am reported that another ammonia leak had occurred just three days before. This time, around four pounds of ammonia had been leaked. The company must report any possible leaks to the DNR but failed to do so due to an unknown reason. However, the company agreed to pay a fine of $10,000 for the leak and is believed to write a plan to the DNR in hopes of stopping future pollution.

Unknown amount of manure leaked from Iowa dairy farm into


Cows in barn
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | March 22, 2022

According to the Iowa DNR, workers at Black Soil Dairy, located near Granville, observed manure water flowing from a barn and into a sewer drain. Unaware that the contamination would flow into a nearby creek, they did nothing to stop the leak. The dairy owner noticed the overflow and stopped it a few days after it had begun. The amount of escaped manure is unknown. 

The farm, which houses 4,500 dairy cows, has a flush flume system that helps clear manure from its three barns. The system utilizes fast flowing liquid to transfer waste across the width of a barn. A clog in the system caused the overflow due to sand. 

The DNR investigated the overflow and noticed that manure traveled five miles down from the dairy farm. This creek is home to little fish like minnows and chubs, which were harmed due to the pollution. Jennifer Christian, a senior environmental specialist for the DNR, said that the leak was significant enough to cause a fish kill. The overflow’s overall impact on the environment is unknown as ice was covering some of the creek. 

Flock of turkeys in Buena Vista County test positive for bird flu


Turkey
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | March 15, 2022

Tests confirmed that a flock of 50,000 turkeys was infected with the bird flu early last week. According to the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the highly contagious and deadly disease caused the turkeys to be slaughtered in Buena Vista County. The virus was likely to have come from wild birds migrating through the state. 

This was the second time the disease had affected birds in a week. The first outbreak was detected in Pottawattamie Country in a small backyard flock of chickens and ducks. Poultry facilities near the Buena Vista site are being watched as well as 37 backyard flocks. 

The turkeys will be buried near the Buena Vista site to reduce the spread of the disease. 

Iowa State’s Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig warned that it is a time of caution, saying, “It is critically important that livestock producers and their veterinarians closely monitor the health of their animals.” 

The last outbreak occurred in 2015, causing the slaughter of more than 30 million birds in the state. Naig said that in order to avoid a similar scenario, it is essential to have early detections and swift responses. 

Common Pesticides are More Harmful than We Once Thought


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | November 28, 2021

A new study found that pesticides are even more harmful to pollinators than previously thought. 

A study by Stuligross and colleagues tallying the detrimental impacts of a key pesticide on reproduction of a bee species adds to growing evidence that such insects, which make up the vast majority of bee species, are vulnerable to the compounds. 

Their findings suggest the harm of pesticides can accumulate over multiple generations, which could exacerbate the loss of species that provide valuable pollination for farms and ecosystems. Pesticides can harm both larva and adult bees. 

The work demonstrates that chronic pesticide poisoning can cause “meaningful and significant impacts” on bees, says Nigel Raine, a bee ecologist at the University of Guelph who was not personally involved with the study. 

Neonicotinoids pesticides which are sprayed on soil and seeds were found to be the most harmful. They affect both the memory of most bees and the ability to reproduce. Pesticides like these were found to be more harmful to these aspects than scientists had once thought. 

Pollinators are necessary to plant and crop growth. A lack of pollination will ultimately lead to a lack of food and necessary plants.