Coaldale Town Council met for a special meeting on Monday to hear the results of a third-party investigation into the deaths of 15 birds at the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre last August.
The centre pointed to an apparent West Nile virus outbreak after the deaths, which occurred between Aug. 15-23 of 2018.
In December, the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation claimed that the outbreak was due to shallow, stagnant pools of water adjacent to the town’s storm pond.
The incident has caused tension between the town and one of its biggest tourist attractions, causing Coaldale Town Council to approve of a third-party investigation into the bird deaths.
The study, conducted by Edmonton-based consulting firm Solstice Environmental Management, was unable to conclusively identify the source.
“Because birds can be exposed to the virus from infected mosquitoes and secretions from infected birds, there are several possible routes of exposure in this case, none of which could be confirmed after the fact,” the report stated.
Dee Patriquin, a senior environmental scientist with Solstice, said that there was no evidence to suggest that shallow pools were the cause of the outbreak.
“In this specific case, we can’t pin-point an actual vector or a source of transmission,” Patriquin said. “There are a variety of different possibilities, and unfortunately, this area of the province is a high-risk zone.”
Patriquin said that the wet spring and hot, dry summer of 2018 were perfectly suited for the West Nile virus to thrive.
“Risk of West Nile is an ongoing future concern I think, and it highlights the need for preventative actions,” Patriquin said.
While the report didn’t assign blame, it did point out flaws that could have contributed to the conflict.
“In this case, co-ordination was required to mitigate water habitat risks, but was hampered by information gaps and informal understandings of roles and responsibilities between the town and the centre,” the report said.
Solstice Environmental Management also included Alberta Health Services in its investigation.
Coaldale Town Council unanimously passed a motion to quickly organize meetings with the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre, which didn’t have a representative present Monday.
Mayor Kim Craig said that the biggest recommendation that the town will look to apply is in regards to communication.