|Canada Geese in Humboldt Wildlife Refuge in Northern California, May 2011.||Photo by J.J. Meyer|
Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are estimating that over 10,000 migrating birds have died so far this year because of reduced water flow to the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and California. Officials say the final death toll may be close to 20,000 birds.
So far this year, the refuge has only received enough water to cover half its 30,000 acres of wetland marshes. That has forced the 2 million birds that migrate through the area, which is a key part of the Pacific Flyway for migrating birds, to congregate in much smaller spaces, thereby creating a climate much more favorable to spreading, quickly fatal, avian cholera. In order to reduce the further spread of the disease, volunteers have been dispatched to pick up carcasses of the dead birds and incinerate them in FWS furnaces.
The problem is that it has been a dry year and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) hasn't allowed water into the refuge since December. BOR parcels out water for users, and their first priority for water that might go to the refuge is for endangered fish, followed by various tribal responsibilities, and then farming needs. Some experts say that the refuge could go dry in three months if water is not provided.
What will this mean for migration through Southern California this fall?