WARNING: Some images in this story may be disturbing to some viewers. Discretion is advised.
A Calgary couple who frequent a southeast park say they’re mystified after discovering dozens of dead birds while on a walk.
Wayne Clarke and his partner Heather said they came across the dead animals last week at Elliston Park, at the intersection of 68 Street and 17 Avenue S.E. Each time they returned over the week, they said more dead animals appeared.
The scene is disturbing by anyone’s standards: more than 50 birds – mostly ducks – lay scattered across the snow-covered pond.
“We couldn’t believe it… after a week, 50 birds, scattered around, unbelievable,” Clarke said. “I’ve been hiking around this lake here for 17 years, and I’ve never seen it like this.”
The couple said they’re worried for families who walk through the park — especially those with young children.
“I’m disgusted because it hasn’t been cleaned up,” Clarke said. “This is a public park. People bring their children — for a child to see this, it’s not a good thing.”
Clarke and Hicks said they’re also concerned for the other animals that may have been feeding on the carcasses, worried the ducks may have been carrying a disease or virus.
“We see little footprints of different animals coming down here. I don’t want them to get sick and then we have a problem,” Hicks said.
Alberta Environment and Parks said Wednesday it had launched an investigation into why so many birds perished.
According to senior wildlife biologist Brett Boukall, there could be a variety of reasons for their deaths, and officials are looking at factors like starvation, extreme exposure to elements and/or diseases.
Boukall said as the temperatures drop, open water areas – like the pond at Elliston Park – may be reduced, which can lead to overcrowding.
“When we do see this overcrowding, they might not be able to feed effectively, they might not be able to protect them from the elements,” Boukall said Wednesday. “And it’s possible that if one of them is carrying a disease, it can spread more quickly when they’re in a tighter group in a smaller area.”
Boukall said at this time, the ice is too thin and it’s too dangerous for biologists to safely remove the carcasses for cleanup.
However, crews are monitoring the area and hope to retrieve several carcasses in the coming days for testing in hopes of learning why the animals died.
The City of Calgary said it is working with wildlife authorities to clear away the ducks that have been found, adding it will continue to help in any way it can.