Dead birds freeze into Lethbridge’s Henderson Lake in ‘mortality event’

The City of Lethbridge estimates 50 to 70 waterfowl died in a recent mortality event. Eloise Therien / Global News

The City of Lethbridge is looking into the deaths of numerous waterfowl at Henderson Lake, including ducks and geese, following the region’s recent cold snap and subsequent warm weather.

“At Henderson we do have variable ice conditions,” explained manager of the Helen Schuler Nature Centre, Coreen Putman.

“As the ice expands, the open water shrinks.”

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This contributes to overcrowding, resulting in injuries from fights, disease and other ailments.

Putman added artificial feeding can contribute to the inability to migrate, and reminds residents to refrain from this behaviour.

“There has been an increase in the number of people engaging in feeding birds,” she said. “They’re not able to engage in that migration because they’re actually not healthy enough.”

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Click to play video: 'Annual Christmas Bird Count underway in Lethbridge' Annual Christmas Bird Count underway in Lethbridge
Annual Christmas Bird Count underway in Lethbridge – Dec 16, 2019

According to Hiroshi Okubu, the city’s parks operations manager, staff have been cleaning up the area when possible, but cannot venture onto the ice in its current state. When retrieved, the remains are bagged and sent to the landfill.

He added there are likely 50 to 70 dead birds in total, but predation from crows and eagles has made that number difficult to confirm.

“We have found heads, wings, feet along the shoreline and we’ve been picking up as we see that,” Okubu said.

The city will be working with Lethbridge College to help determine the exact cause of the deaths.

There no risk to public heath at this time.

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