Thursday, January 5, 2017 Alaska Gull study

As noted in my August 14, 2016 blog, I found a Herring Gull with a transmitter at the beach in Seward. Here’s the rest of the story:

The January 4, 2017 Alaska Dispatch News posted an article, “Alaska gulls are picking up antibiotic-resistant bacteria that could infect humans.”

According to the article, scientists trapped gulls at the Soldotna landfill and the mouth of the Kenai River in 2014 and took fecal samples. The study found that gulls at areas heavily used by humans were resistant to at least one antibiotic.

There is no sign that antibiotic-resistant bacteria in Kenai Peninsula gulls have affected people, but infections in gulls are reflective of human impacts. There are no signs that the gulls are getting sick from the e coli strains they are carrying.

More detailed studies were done in June of 2016, including tracking gulls to see how they traveled between the landfill and the mouths of the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers, and sampling fish caught at those rivers.

The e coli bacteria come from warm-blooded animals and their waste, including birds, seals, dogs, and humans. The solution is to avoid attracting animals and their waste to the Kenai River beaches. The scientists hope to determine whether good waste practices, among other factors, can keep these resistant bacteria from spreading to gulls and humans.

The USGS article <> has more information including a link to an ADEC brochure on how to protect your health while dipnetting

To reduce the chance of illness, ADEC recommends washing your hands after visiting a landfill or before processing fish, wash fish in clean tap water, and cook fish to a minimum of 145º internal temperature. Also, dipnetters should use portable restrooms provided at the beach, throw fish waste back into the main river channel at low tide or as far out as possible; pick up and properly dispose of pet waste, pack out trash or use designated trash cans and dumpsters.  Wash or shower after contact with beach and river water and do not drink river water.

That one Herring Gull taught me a lot more than I anticipated!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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