Nearly 300 dead birds were recently found on the beaches of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Park staff say they have an idea as to how the birds day and are urging people who visit the beaches to take certain precautions. There are also actions park officials want people to take to help protect the birds.

What happened to this large number of birds?

MLive reports that most of the dead birds found along the beach were long-tailed ducks, a species of migratory waterfowl. Other bird species found dead were Loons and mergansers. Park officials believe the birds died due to an outbreak that has been occurring in the Great Lakes region since the 1960's.

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Cause for concern

In a Facebook post from park officials at Sleeping Bear Dunes, it's believed that the birds died from an outbreak of type-E botulism, also known as avian botulism. The illness is caused by a bacteria-produced toxin which causes paralysis and is usually fatal to waterfowl. Type-E botulism is usually transferred to birds after eating small fish or invertebrates.

The National Parks Service website says NPS staff and volunteers monitor the beaches for sick and dead birds. They're also analyzing data from those birds to help prevent outbreaks in the future.

What people can do to help

Park officials advise people to notify the park if you find a sick, injured,or dead bird. They also strongly advise people to not pick up a sick, injured, or dead bird. Not just for health reasons, but it's also illegal to handle wildlife at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

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Gallery Credit: Lauren Gordon