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Avian Cholera Suspected After 2,000 Geese Found Dead in Idaho

About 2,000 migrating snow geese were found dead in northern Idaho over the weekend, said state wildlife officials who said Monday that avian cholera was suspected.

The state Fish & Game Department said the geese appeared to have died while stopping at the Mud Lake and Market Lake Wildlife Management Areas on their way home to their nesting grounds in northern Alaska. While testing isn't complete, the apparent symptoms indicate avian cholera, the agency said, and the carcasses will be incinerated so other scavenging birds don't eat the deadly bacterium.

Steve Schmidt, supervisor of the agency's Upper Snake region, said it wasn't known how the birds contracted the disease, but he said their migration would have started in the Southwest and Mexico.

Outbreaks of avian cholera — which federal health officials said poses little risk to humans — have occurred sporadically in the Northwest region over the last few years. More than 10,000 migrating birds died of avian cholera in southern Oregon and northern California in the first three months of 2012 because of low water levels in wetlands at a popular bird rest area.

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— M. Alex Johnson