Mystery over duck deaths on the canal

Alan Pearson
Alan Pearson

A spate of duck deaths on the Lancaster Canal around Garstang is causing concern among the boating and walking community.

It is thought avian botul-ism could be the cause.

Andrew Willacy, who works at Bridgehouse Marina
 in Garstang, said that in the last few weeks staff had seen a high number of dead or dying ducks locally.

He added: “Many people walk along the canal and will have noticed the dead birds. We have learned from talking to customers along the Lancaster Canal that this has been happening, it seems, from around Forton to down to as far as Catforth.”

There are reports that the Lancaster Canal and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal have been particularly hit.

Local vet Alan Pearson,
of Lanes Vets, said his practice had not had any calls about the problem.

However, he added: 
“Avian botulism is more or less a death sentence. It’s an organism related to the tetanus family – clostridium botulinum – and gets into the body and produces poisons or toxins. It gets into the mud at the bottom of canals and rivers.”

The prolonged dry spell means that ducks have probably been foraging for food in such mud and therefore been exposed to infection.

Mr Pearson added that there was not a risk to 
humans unless you ingest or get a cut infected, in which case you should seek prompt medical advice.