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The first report of avian cholera in North America occurred in northwestern Texas in winter 1944 (Quortrup et al. 1946). In 1975, mortality from avian cholera occurred for the first time in waterfowl in the Rainwater Basin of Nebraska when an estimated 25,000 birds died (Zinkl et al. 1977). Avian cholera has continued to cause mortality in wild birds in specific areas of the Basin each spring since. Losses of waterfowl from avian cholera continue to be much greater in some of the wetlands in the western part of the Basin than in the east. Several wetlands in the west have consistently higher mortality and are most often the wetlands where initial mortality is noticed each spring (Figure 1).
The establishment of this disease in Nebraska is of considerable concern because of the importance of the Rainwater Basin as a spring staging area for waterfowl migrating to their breeding grounds. The wetlands in this area are on a major migration route used by an estimated 5 to 9 million ducks and several hundred thousand geese. A large portion of the western mid-continental greater white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) population stage in the Basin each spring. Occasionally, whooping cranes (Grus americana) use these wetlands during migration, and lesser sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) staging on the nearby Platte River sometimes use wetlands where avian cholera occurs (Anonymous 1981).
Our objectives were to determine whether certain water quality variables in the Rainwater Basin differed between areas of high and low avian cholera incidence. These results would then be used for laboratory studies involving the survivability of Pasteurella multocida, the causative bacterium of avian cholera. Those studies will be reported elsewhere.
Additional Publication Details
Avian cholera in Nebraska's Rainwater Basin
Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference