Duck kill in popular hunting area right before season opens

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Idaho Fish and Game says an outbreak of "avian botulism" is to blame for more than 600 ducks that were found at the Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area near Parma. They included dead mallards and other birds since the end of August. Even though the disease does not pose a threat to people, Fish and Game says hunters might want to reconsider going to Fort Boise Saturday.

It started after Game officials drained the ponds at Fort Boise to spray for weeds, leaving the ponds shallow and the bottom exposed. Wildlife biologist Andy Ogden says botulism is in the soil and the birds feed off the empty ponds and start spreading the illness. "The first ducks get sick and die. Flies lay eggs on them. The maggots that are growing on the dead ducks are just like ice cream to another duck. Unfortunately that's what kills the next duck," Ogden said.

Game officials have gathered and dumped almost all the dead birds in the area. As of last week they have seen only 2 dead ducks. They think the illness has ran its course and the remaining birds are fine. Fish and Game are telling hunters Fort Boise may not be the place to come this Saturday with only about a quarter of the birds they normally have. They usually get about 50 to 75 hunters on opening day but they're getting the word out that other hunting areas may be their best bet.