- Associated Press - Monday, June 16, 2014

KAYSVILLE, Utah (AP) - Officials have taken aim on mosquitoes in northern Utah to prevent a recurrence of bald eagle deaths and illnesses.

In December, dozens of eagles were found sick and dying from an illness that scientists eventually identified as West Nile virus.

Because the virus is spread by mosquitoes, Davis County officials have implemented a program to reduce the mosquito population and hopefully halt the spread of the virus, The Standard-Examiner reported (http://bit.ly/1y92Fsf ) Sunday.

“Seeing those bald eagles with West Nile virus was a big thing to us and a lot of people got anxious about it,” said Gary Hatch, director of the Davis County Mosquito Abatement District.

Workers started spraying pesticides for mosquitoes in May and have treated more than 400,000 acres, Hatch said. The county is also adding small mosquito-eating fish to ponds.

The West Nile virus spread last year from mosquitoes to eared grebes, a duck-like aquatic bird, wildlife officials said. The eagles then became infected when they scavenged dead grebes that had been sickened by the virus.

More than 82 bald eagles died by the end of the season.

Four others afflicted with the virus are still alive but have neurological problems that officials say will prevent them from being re-released into the wild.

Officials are hopeful the treatment is working because grebes began migrating this spring and there’s no sign yet of any dead birds.

The mosquito pesticides can also kill honey bees, Hatch said, so crews are spraying at night while bees are protected in their hives.

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Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net