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West Nile virus outbreak results in 15 dead birds at Alberta conservation centre

Click to play video: 'West Nile Virus outbreak affects Birds of Prey Centre' West Nile Virus outbreak affects Birds of Prey Centre
WATCH ABOVE: The Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation, located in Coaldale, announced an outbreak of West Nile Virus northwest of the town this summer caused an alarming number of their birds to die. The foundation calling the outbreak a tragedy. Malika Karim reports. WARNING: Disturbing images – Dec 21, 2018

The Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation announced 15 birds lost their lives over the summer after testing found an outbreak of West Nile virus in the Coaldale centre.

The foundation is reeling over the tragic loss of some of their most important and valued birds.

“It was about 25 per cent of the display birds that we lost,” said Colin Weir, the foundation’s managing director.

“(It) included the great grey owl, burrowing owls–which are endangered, red tail hawk, snowy owl, saw wood owl…and our most significant losses are bald eagles that we use for the flying demonstrations.”

READ MORE: Alberta Birds of Prey Centre opens new Owl Amphitheatre

The foundation said it asked the Town of Coaldale to notify the public about the outbreak, but were told to wait for Alberta Health Services to release a public service announcement.

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When asked about the incident, the town issued a statement to Global News.

“The origins of the West Nile disease that took the lives of the birds living at the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre remains unknown, and there are several possible factors and sources that could have led to this unfortunate incident,” the statement read.

The foundation believes the outbreak of the virus took place northwest of Coaldale, near shallow, stagnant pools of water adjacent to the town’s storm pond.

“Birds that were affected were usually housed in some of the pens in display aviaries that are located right beside the pond areas or closest to the pond areas, where we think the West Nile virus carrying mosquitoes may have originated from,” Weird said. “Aviaries that were farther away–those birds weren’t affected at all.”

The foundation said they’ve lost more than $100,000 as a result of the dead birds.

The Town said it’s committed to working with the centre to identify the root of the incident and assist the foundations in its recovery.

They released the statement below, Friday afternoon, on their Facebook Page.

Town of Coaldale’s release regarding the Birds of Prey Centre. Town of Coaldale / Facebook

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