National

Sep 17, 2009 3:57 PM by Associated Press

Botulism blamed for dead birds at Great Salt Lake

Tens of thousands of dead birds are showing up along the shore of the Great Salt Lake.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources estimates 20,000 to 50,000 birds have died so far this year from avian botulism, a toxin that periodically plagues birds at the lake.

Biologists say the outbreak ramped up in early August and is expected to last into the fall.

State wildlife disease expert Leslie McFarlane says this year's outbreak is considered moderate. A similar episode in 1997 killed about a half-million birds around the lake.

The botulism bacteria is commonly spread when birds eat maggots from a dead bird that's been infected.

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