WASAGA BEACH, ONT.—Thousands of dead birds that washed ashore along a stretch of Georgian Bay were to be picked up starting Monday, said a spokesman for Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources.
“We will have a crew going out to clean up the provincial park beaches in this area,” said John Cooper, a ministry spokesman based in Peterborough.
Initial estimates pegged the number of dead waterfowl as high as 6,000, but Cooper said ministry staff were going to do an updated assessment on Monday.
Tests were being done to determine the cause of the deaths, but previous such die-offs often were caused by the waterfowl eating botulism-laced fish, Cooper said.
“It’s not uncommon to have these kind of die-offs of fish and birds on the Great Lakes at this time of year, but in this location and this number is unusual.”
Bottom-feeding fish ingest toxins that cause botulism and the birds feast on the dead or dying fish. Fish react to the toxin by becoming erratic, making them an easier prey target for a loon or duck that’s looking for something to eat, Cooper said.
The die-offs along a roughly 3-kilometre stretch on Georgian Bay is the largest Ontario officials have seen in many years. About a decade ago some 25,000 birds died on Lake Erie from eating botulism-laced fish.