A FATAL disease is thought to be responsible for wild fowl deaths at Doffcocker Lodge.

Worried residents who live near the lodge have been shocked at the recent surge in avian deaths, including swan cygnets.

A government agency has confirmed it is likely to be due to the fatal paralytic disease botulism, caused by a poisonous nerve toxin released by bacteria — but it has also stressed that there is no evidence of risk to human health.

The Bolton News first reported water fowl deaths in July after a number of Canada geese, coots and ducks died after spending time in and around the water.

Environment Agency tests came back negative for poisonous blue-green algae, but a more recent investigation from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) has confirmed botulism is likely to be to blame.

Ian Walker, aged 55, who lives in Whitecroft Road, said: “I walk my dogs around the lodge but I haven’t done it as often recently because of all the fowl deaths.

“It isn’t just swans — a number of fish and other birds have also been found dead over the last few months. Something needs to be done about it.”

A spokesperson for the AHVLA added: “In recent weeks we have received a number of reports of dead wildfowl in North West England. AHVLA investigates several incidents of suspected avian botulism in waterbirds each year in England and Wales, and these cases are very similar to the pattern at Doffcocker Lodge.

“Our investigations have found no evidence of a notifiable animal disease or risk to human health.

“The disease is not unusual although it may be associated with deaths in wild birds.”

A council spokesman said: “We have endeavoured to clean up as soon as possible to prevent further spread of the disease. We would ask that visitors do not feed the wildfowl as this can contribute to the problem.”

Anyone finding five or more dead wild birds should call Defra on 08459 33 55 77.

Avian botulism

  • Avian botulism poisoning causes death, sometimes large-scale, in various waterfowl and shorebird species.
  • Poisoning occurs when birds ingest bacteria infected by a particular virus.
  • When the bird perishes, the disease is passed on to other birds through contaminated maggots, which are not affected by the toxins.
  • Avian botulism does not cause any risk to humans.