Hundreds of black vultures killed by highly pathogenic avian influenza at Conowingo Dam

Hundreds of black vultures have been killed by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) at Conowingo Dam since mid -April according to Constellation, the company that owns and operates Conowingo Dam.

Earlier this week, it was reported an undetermined number of vultures were found dead at the dam – testing showed they died from highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Today, Constellation issued a statement that confirms their company, along with “Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture collected more than one hundred black vulture carcasses on Constellation property near the entrance of Fishermen’s Park since mid-April. Most were located near the first guard shack entering Fisherman’s Park Parking Lot on Shure’s Landing Road, also near the trailhead to the Mason Dixon Trail. No dead birds have been found near the fishing wharf or Conowingo Dam.”

The statement continues, “Several of these birds were tested by Maryland Department of Natural Resources and were confirmed to have the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (HPAI).

The Maryland Department of Agriculture previously indicated, “the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed samples submitted from the recently dead birds tested positive for HPAI.”

Conowingo Dam is located on the Susquehanna River. It is frequented by a large population of both bald eagles and black vultures.

2020. Bald eagles at Conowingo Dam.

According to the statement, “Constellation is working in close coordination with state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Maryland Department of Environment, Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to protect the public, and wild and domestic birds in the area, including the area’s beloved eagles.”

HPAI has struck many birds, including in Maryland.

In Illinois, hundreds of double-breasted cormorants were found dead from HPAI.

According to Constellation, Fisherman’s Park is open at the dam, but ” to help prevent HPAI spread we have temporarily closed the Mason Dixon trail from Fisherman’s Park to Shuresville Road (including the gravel parking area adjacent to the trail at Fisherman’s Park), and the Shure’s Landing Wildflower Trail (also known as the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways Trail). Black vultures have been observed at these locations and these temporary closures are intended to help reduce HPAI spread from shoes that could come into contact with bodily fluids or droppings from diseased black vultures.”

HPAI can be difficult to assess.

“Wild birds can be infected with HPAI and show no signs of illness,” according to Constellation. ” Because they may not show signs, the public should avoid contact with birds, especially dead birds or birds that are acting erratically.”

Donna L. Cole is an award-winning multimedia and investigative reporter. She’s also a bird of prey rescuer.

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