Seanetter Dick Jordan has been spotting dead Common Eiders in Wellfleet, MA on Cape Cod for about a month now. And he’s not alone; Seanetters from the Cape up to Maine have found varying numbers of the species dead on their beaches as well. Numbers are typical of the season so far, with fewer than 50 dead eiders reported through formal SEANET survey channels. Nonetheless, a die-off is a die-off, and a research team is currently looking into the newly discovered Wellfleet Bay Virus (WFBV) found in dead eiders from years past. The team, lead by scientists and veterinarians at the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) and the USDA’s Wildlife Services division brings together collaborators from around the country. They hope to collect carcasses, and also to get blood samples from sick eiders. They also hope to collect ticks from the live birds, as the blood-sucking arthropods are suspected of potentially spreading the virus from bird to bird.
We hope the carcass collecting trip goes off without a hitch, and that some sick birds can be found to offer up blood samples, as such samples could offer a treasure trove of information on the virus’ behavior, and its effect on the birds.