Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dead Birds in Franklin Township

While I was gone over the weekend, there was a massive bird kill in Franklin Township, not far from where I live. Apparently it was the work of the USDA, but both the Department of Agriculture and Franklin Township have been slow in releasing information.

Everything from Avian influenza to West Nile disease, both bird-killing ailments that also affect humans, was feared. But no humans or pets were ever at risk, said the USDA, contending the pesticide, known as DRC-1339, is inert once it is eaten by the birds and becomes metabolized.

That part of the story is only now reaching residents in Somerset County's Franklin Township, where officials continued efforts today to help citizens find ways to dispose of the bird corpses filling up their lawns.

"Unfortunately, this was also done on a Friday, so the birds died on the weekend when no one was around to respond to calls. I can just imagine it would have been very disconcerting for people to find the birds dead," said Carol Bannerman, a USDA spokeswoman.

State agriculture and wildlife officials were notified two weeks ago, along with Somerset County officials. But Ken Daly, Franklin Township's administrator, said the township was told too little, too late.

"The only notice we got in the municipal building was on Friday, a second-hand phone call from our county health director that somewhere, sometime the USDA would be culling birds. No one knew what that meant. If we had known it was coming, we could have gotten word out to the residents," he said.
The starlings were actually poisoned on a farm in Mercer County but dispersed into nearby Franklin Township before dying. So far I have not seen any reports of species other than starling being affected by the kill.