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55 Dead Birds Collected at Laguna Niguel Regional Park

Local volunteer Kristi Jolliffe went out for a third time on Wednesday night to gather birds to be tested for avian botulism. This isn't the first she has been called on for her services.

More sick and dead birds were gathered from on Wednesday night for testing for possible by a local volunteer.

Kristi Jolliffe says she went out again on the lake in a fishing boat around 5 p.m., her third trip in three days, to collect the birds. 

“During the past three days, I have collected 55 dead birds, 14 live birds, of which 10 were taken to the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach. Three of the birds collected Tuesday, died during the evening and the forth was picked up Wednesday evening. The Mallard is in bad condition. If it makes it through the evening it will be transported to WWCC."

She said the 10 birds that have been transported to WWCC are doing great and should make a full recovery. 

Jolliffe said on Sunday evening she received a call from the concession stand owners of Rip N’ Lips, who said they had one sick duck. She went to the lake to pick up the duck, and found a second sick duck and one dead duck.  

She requested the county boat from the park ranger for Monday morning.

"Once I realized the magnitude of the problem, I started with rescuing rather than recovering. When the boat ran out of battery power, I took the five sick birds to my home to keep them cool, and started flushing their systems with fluids via tube feeding," she said.

She then returned to the lake.

"Due to low battery power, I started recovering birds and I collected 13 dead birds in different stages of decomposition. Because of the different decomposition stages, I concluded the outbreak had been occurring for some time," she said.

Staff members of Rip N' Lips confirmed the outbreak started in early July and they picked up around 60 dead birds that were visible to their patrons before contacting her, Jolliffe said.

"As of now, we are talking about 135 sick or dead birds with at least 20 sick birds stilll waiting to be rescued ,and an unknown number of dead birds needing to be picked up," she said. 

On late Monday afternoon, Jolliffe had arranged for friends to transport six Mallard ducks and one American Coot from and admitted them to the WWCC. 

On Wednesday morning, the facility’s director Debbie McGuire said: "So far, 30 deceased birds were taken to O.C. Animal Control and three more live Mallards were taken to WWCC. I'm told there is a broken aerator pump at the park's lake. This means that there is low oxygen in the environment, and things die off. The water is also warm, and it can be the perfect set up for germination and more things to grow like botulism."

Jolliffe confirmed there have been many more outbreaks: in 2007, 2008, 2009 and in 2011. She was the one who collected more than 250 of the live and dead birds at that time.

During the 2009 outbreak several factors played a role, she said. First, herbicides were sprayed on reeds in an overflow area of the lake that needs to remain clear of vegetation for possible major flooding. Second, the aerator pumps were off for more than six weeks. Finally, the hot temperatures made for perfect conditions for a botulism outbreak, she said.

According to officials at , water is not the culprit when it comes to a possible botulism outbreak.

"I can assure residents that recycled water that we provide throughout the area is properly maintained. It goes through rigorous testing, and the water we provide to Laguna meets all the state requirements.  How that water is maintained is the responsibility of the facility’s owner.  If water does sit around and is not aerated, it can go stagnate and attract critters and other things that could eventually lead to algae and odors," said Moulton Niguel Water District General Manager Joone Lopez. 

The dead birds are in the process of being tested and results are pending, it could take several weeks for the results, said Mc Guire. 

Jolliffe, a former director of human resources, has spent the past few years on call, volunteering her services rescuing and recovering birds and other wildlife for the county.

"I do this because I am not the type of person who cannot walk by an injuired animial without doing something," she said.

Barton Mac Leod July 26, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Green slime, stinky smell for years in and around the lake. Officials are aware and look the other way. Otherwise, it would have been corrected.
monte stinnett July 31, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Another prime of example of people that don't do their job and point their fingers anywhere but at themselves.

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