Dozens of ducks reportedly dead at Sugar House Pond, experts suspect botulism

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Several ducks are being cared for at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah and dozens of ducks were reportedly found to be dead at the pond at Sugar House Park this week, and experts suspect botulism is the cause.

Delyn Marthaler, Executive Director for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah in Ogden, said earlier this week they received three ducks that were ill and Sunday four others were brought in. Marthaler said while they haven't visited the pond at Sugar House Park, those who reported the incident said they saw dozens of ducks that had died.

Connie Prows was at the park Sunday, and she submitted several photos of the ducks.

"Just kept walking and more and more dead ducks," she said. " Some on the other side of the bank still alive, flailing, trying to figure out even how to get up a simple embankment,  they can't.... And, I don't even know how many are dead."

Marthaler said so far the cause is unknown, but "right now it looks very much like botulism."

Marthaler said they will conduct tests to determine the exact cause, and she said one of the three ducks brought in earlier in the week has died, meaning there are six being cared for at the facility as of Sunday. She said they expect to see more cases among ducks.

This is not the first time this has happened at Sugar House Park, as officials have stated previously such deaths occur each year as the weather warms up. The hot weather causes oxygen levels in the water to decrease, which produces conditions that make bacteria active.

The National Wildlife Health Center states: "This bacteria is widespread in soil and requires warm temperatures, a protein source and an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment in order to become active and produce toxin. Decomposing vegetation and invertebrates combined with warm temperatures can provide ideal conditions for the botulism bacteria to activate and produce toxin."

Marthaler said anyone who spots dead or dying ducks should use caution and not make direct contact with the bodies, but should instead use multiple bags to handle and dispose of them. She said citizens can also contact the Division of Wildlife Resources regarding disposal.


  • Robert Christopulos

    It’s not feeding them bread. I live in Sugarhouse, just a block from Fairmont Park. For more than forty years,I, my kids, my grandkids, and even great grandkids have fed the ducks and fish there seeing no I’ll effects to their health and enjoying their presence at the park. we have had other animals bless us with their presence at the park, including pelicans, geese, Canadian geese, raccoons, squirrels. In the wintertime, there have even been deer, the rare appearance of an elk, and an even rarer moose.

    These parks are a continuous source of enjoyment and beauty to all who will take time to enjoy them.

  • Zac

    Nope, it’s not the bread that’s killing the ducks, its definitely 100% a disease that has to do with stagnant water in the pond’s shallower areas where I’ve seed most ducks die while dabbling on the dirt/mud for maggots and larvae. As of today 5/22/15, there are still about 10 dead ducks on site, floating and some 5 or so agonizing but still alive. No one is doing anything at the moment, and haven’t seen them do all of these years at the pond. At other ponds like fairmont or liberty park I’ve hardly ever seen this happen, maybe about 5 times in the past 5 years. I think the shallow, low oxygen waters are to blame. This year has also been the hottest and almost driest on record, lots of creeks like parleys, little cottonwood, mill have very low water which is very rare even in the summer and spring.

  • constance rodd

    For the lady 2 years I have called the parks and health departments regarding the dead birds found around the pond every summer. I told the I thought it was either an avian virus which is extremely contagious to humans and sometimes deadly or it was some sort of water poisoning. They volunteered that it was from not cleaning the pond often enough to remove the deteriorating food and waste products from the water. If botulism is the culprit they are faced with another deadly microbe humans and other animals must be cautious with. The populace need to be vigilant with the conservator of these water locations if they want to preserve the migrating fowl and humans with their pets.

  • sugarhouserOG

    So why haven’t they placed fountain s our some other way to create circulation near these shallow and stagnant areas I’m sure since this seems to happen every 5-7 years it would seem only logical.. ..ya think.

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