- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Reno city parks officials have blamed degraded water quality due to the drought for the deaths of dozens of ducks at a pair of urban lakes.

A total of 24 dead ducks have been found at Virginia Lake in recent weeks and a similar number at Teglia’s Paradise Pond, parks manager Jeff Mann said Monday.

The birds likely suffered from avian botulism as a result of low water and oxygen levels, he said.

Lakes and ponds in Reno parks are fed by the Truckee River and it’s been weeks since any fresh water entered the system.

“This is another symptom of the drought,” Mann told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Chances are it will get worse.”

“Healthy wildlife can find other water sources but once they’re weakened, there’s really nothing we can do about it” other than hope for rain and wait for snow to arrive in the winter, he said.

Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy said the number of dead ducks is the most significant in several years but there have been worse cases. In 2002, about 120 ducks died in Virginia Lake during an outbreak of avian botulism, which attacks and paralyzes birds.

Tests have yet to confirm an outbreak of avian botulism is now occurring but conditions are such that it is likely, Healy said.

“In the mud exists the toxin for Avian botulism,” Healy said, explaining that ducks eat bugs that live in the mud and die a few days later.

“If the water is flowing through and you don’t have it receding and exposing the mud, the answer is it would not be as bad,” he told KOLO-TV.

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