Test are being done to determine what caused the deaths of several birds rescued from a retention pond in northwest Winnipeg.
Six seriously ill birds were rescued late Wednesday and taken to a rehabilitation centre. Staff at Prairie Wildlife told Global News Thursday three of the birds in their care, two of which were pelicans, had since died.
Earlier in the day, Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation executive director Zoe Nakata confirmed they got a call from Animal Services Wednesday night about “some birds in distress” in a pond at Adsum Drive and Keewatin Street.
“They were quite lethargic, a little bit of paralysis so that’s what we’ve seen so far. Our focus right now is on stabilizing them and then we will be conducting an in-depth assessment to evaluate the cause and then determine the best treatment,” Nakata said.
“We’re hopeful for at least some of the six. They’re all in different degrees of sickness but we’re quite hopeful for some of them,” she said.
Facebook posts show a number of birds that appeared to be struggling in the water, while others had already died.
In an email, the city said the province’s Chief Veterinarian Office is testing the animals to see what may have caused the deaths.
“In cases where large numbers of birds or wildlife are found deceased, the city will work with the Chief Veterinarian’s Office to determine the cause by submitting samples of the dead animals for testing. Results in this case are not yet finalized.”
The city says their officials believe the birds died of natural causes, but are submitting water samples to the Chief Veterinarian’s Office, as well.
Nakata said it’s too early to tell what could have made the birds sick — from food to the water — but they’re hopeful they can come up with a diagnosis soon.
One thing they are looking into is Avian botulism, a naturally occurring food poisoning that affects many bird species.
As they explore, residents are asking questions of their own.
A group speculated it could be humans feeding the birds bad food. One man told Global News he sees people give the birds full meals every day, and that he thinks some of the food could act as “poison.”
Whatever the cause, residents aren’t only mad about the bird deaths.
Neighbours told media they’ve been making calls for years to their Councillor, the city and the province to complain about the pond, and that they’ve gone largely unanswered.
They said it wasn’t until Wednesday that action was taken and testing was done; “too late” to one residents who said she had witnessed “more than a hundred” birds die off.
Area city Coun. Devi Sharma declined a Global News on-camera interview request.
Sharma said she received multiple phone calls from concerned residents about the pond’s quality earlier this month, but could not say why testing was not completed.
WATCH: Global’s Timm Bruch outlines the effort to save the birds, and what is being done about the problem