Is botulism back in St Albans' diseased Verulamium Lake? - Warning: contains disturbing images

Verulamium Lake, St Albans

Verulamium Lake, St Albans


Is avian botulism back in Verulamium lake?

Verulamium Lake, St AlbansVerulamium Lake, St Albans

Concerns are mounting following the discovery of a dead Canada Goose which had been ringed at the lake in Verulamium Park.

The death was reported to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), which had ringed the bird, and a report issued by them said it had been poisoned with the cause given as botulism.

But there is a question mark over the tests which were carried out on the body and whether the BTO had seen or examined it or had just relayed information passed to them.

The resident, who discovered the body of the bird and who has reported three other duck deaths in recent weeks to the Herts Advertiser, said he had not mentioned botulism as a possible cause of death when he reported the bird’s death to the BTO.

A dead Canadian goose in Verulamium LakeA dead Canadian goose in Verulamium Lake

But St Albans council was quick to dispel any suggestion that the botulism was back.

Head of community services, Richard Shwe, said: “There has not been another outbreak of avian botulism at Verulamium Park and any suggestion to the contrary is just plain wrong.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of birds at the park and deaths are a natural and regular event.

“Our park rangers say the number of deaths this year have been in the normal range and nothing unusual has happened.”

A dead Canadian goose in Verulamium LakeA dead Canadian goose in Verulamium Lake

He confirmed that the BTO had issued a report on the history and habits of a ringed Canada Goose found dead in the park and it had mentioned botulism. But, he went on, “they have since made it clear that there is no evidence that was the cause of death nor were they suggesting botulism is currently present in the park”.

Mr Shwe added: “Last summer’s outbreak was partly blamed on the water quality of the lakes and we are now working with the Environment Agency on a long-term solution.”

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said they had known about the problems caused by the outbreak of avian botulism last year but there had not been any reports of a similar occurence in 2016.

She added: “We would always urge members of the public to contact us if they do have any concerns for an animal’s welfare and they can call us on our Cruelty and Advice Line 0300 123 4999.”

More than 100 duck deaths from avian botulism were reported at the lake last year and the council put up signs to alert people about the situation.

Residents called for the lake to be dredged but that was ruled out by the council which is instead focusing on increasing the number of aquatic plants and putting up signs asking visitors not to feed the ducks,

A longer term remedial scheme in conjunction with the Environment Agency to improve the water flow into the lake is in the pipeline.

Mini diggers have also been used to remove some of the silt but concerns have been voiced by residents about the smell of the lake, particularly near the Fighting Cocks pub end, the stagnant water and scum on the surface.

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