Local, State Officials Monitoring Bird Deaths Along Jefferson Ave.

Ring-billed gulls are protected species
Friday, June 16, 2017

LANSING — State Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) said today that she in communication with staff at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), city of Detroit Sustainability Office and the Detroit Audubon Society after hearing concerns from House District 6 constituents about the large number of ring-billed gulls, many of them juveniles, found dead on Jefferson Avenue near the Waste Water Treatment Plant. The ring-billed gulls have chosen this area to nest, and there is a larger number of gulls in the area compared to previous years (about 10,000 compared to about 5,000 in past years).

“The Department of Natural Resources conducted necropsies on Tuesday morning,” said Rep. Chang. “The information I received from the DNR indicates ‘there was no evidence of trauma on any of the birds examined. Body condition was adequate with slight to moderate dehydration. Samples were collected to rule out avian botulism, West Nile virus, avian influenza, pesticides and metals toxicity. Tissues were also submitted for histopathology (microscope examination). While most of these tests are relatively quick, final results may take days to weeks.’”

The extreme heat over the past few days as well as the increased traffic on Jefferson Avenue because of the closure of southbound I-75 may be contributing factors to the large number of bird deaths.

“There is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of recent air quality emissions or the operations at the Waste Water Treatment Plant, according to MDEQ staff,” said Rep. Chang. “I will remain in contact with MDEQ on this issue and have requested air emissions data to personally review.”

The city of Detroit has taken the appropriate action so far and is pursuing other steps to address the situation to help the birds. “Nature area” signage has been added to the road, and the General Services Department will be adding additional fencing today to prevent the gulls from coming onto the roadway. This species of birds is federally protected, so it is illegal to move the nests. Many agencies and nonprofits are exploring opportunities to protect these birds.

“Several groups are planning potential rescue efforts and if residents are interested in helping, they can contact the Detroit Audubon Society, Friends of the Rouge River or the Michigan Humane Society,” said Chang.

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