Avian cholera, caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida, is one of the most important diseases affecting waterfowl in North America but little is known about the epizootiology of this disease or its impacts on annual survival rates. We ringed Lesser Snow Geese Anser caerulescens nesting at Wrangel Island, Russia and Banks Island, Canada with metal rings and individually coded plastic neck-collars or radio-transmitters to determine survival, movement and cause of death. We vaccinated half of the neck-collared and radiotagged geese to provide protection from avian cholera for up to one year following ringing and thus experimentally determine the impacts of this disease on survival. We found that vaccination did not reduce short-term survival of the experimental birds, compared with control geese. Neck-collared geese vaccinated in 1993 at Wrangel Island had higher survival during winter 1993-94 than control birds. In contrast, we found similar survival during winter 1994-95 between vaccinated and control geese neck-collared in 1994 at Wrangel and Banks Islands. Survival of radiotagged geese on wintering areas during 1994-95 was consistent with the vaccination versus control results for neck-collared geese during the same winter. However, we found that radiotagged geese that were vaccinated had better survival than control geese during winter 1995-96. We believe that harvest and avian cholera are the two principal causes of mortality for Lesser Snow Geese wintering in the Pacific Flyway and that avian cholera may be one of the factors affecting these populations.
Additional publication details
Effects of avian cholera on survival of Lesser Snow Geese Anser caerulescens: An experimental approach