BALDWIN, Ill. – A record outbreak of avian flu, also known as “bird flu,” in northern states like Minnesota and South Dakota appears to have reached the St. Louis region as birds migrate south for the winter.
At least 300 waterfowl have died at Baldwin Lake recently, according to hunters and state workers.
Baldwin Lake is about 40 miles southeast of St. Louis in Randolph County, Illinois.
According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (ILDNR), approximately 300 birds have died because of a suspected avian flu infection at Baldwin Lake, the Pyramid State Recreation Area near Pinckneyville, Rend Lake, and Carlyle Lake. Hunters put the total number of dead birds in the thousands.
Sara Adams was at Baldwin Lake feeding a couple of ducks, which she said started following her during her walks around the lake about five years ago.
Adams gave them the names “Huey” and “Jethro.”
“They followed me on my walk. I decided to start feeding them. They’re my friends,” she said, noting that three others in their group had died over the years.
The lake is teeming with waterfowl, mostly snow geese, which have been the primary carriers during this outbreak, according to wildlife officials.
Sick birds huddled alone and motionless near the shore as waves cascaded over them on Tuesday. About 275 dead birds had been counted around the lake since Saturday. By sunset, dozens more geese appeared to be sick, and more had already died.
“Just today, I just walked the shoreline here and found 30-40 in a matter of about 20-30 minutes,” said Logan Zirkelbach, a wildlife lover and hunter from Smithton.
There is concern about the flu spreading to species that are not as plentiful as geese, including resident herons and bald eagles.
Avian flu can also spread to animals that feed on diseased birds, according to wildlife officials. The CDC reports that human infection cases are rare and cannot be spread from person to person. The ILDNR is reminding hunters to thoroughly cook all game meat. People are asked to avoid handling dead birds and to report concentrations of dead birds numbering 20 or more by clicking here.
Adams asks that everyone say a prayer for Huey and Jethro.
“They’re my buddies. I don’t want anything to happen to them,” she said.
Test results confirming suspicions of an avian flu outbreak are expected this week.