'I couldn’t believe what I was seeing': Bird flu causes mass mortality of geese in Markham
Dead geese tested positive found in Country Glen Stormwater Pond, Toogood Pond, Monkhouse Pond and Swan Lake
March 27, 2023
Spring is here and it seems like a good time to spend more time in the great outdoors.
In Markham, most people love heading over to the beautiful ponds to gaze at wildlife, or to get some steps on the scenic trail that loops right around the ponds. The ponds are home to many Canada geese, ducks and other birds.
Yet, it will be different this year.
Recently, dead geese have been found in Markham with suspected avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu.
As of March 21, City of Markham has found and removed 140 dead geese.
Four areas in the municipality have geese that have tested positive, including Country Glen Stormwater Pond, Toogood Pond, Monkhouse Pond and Swan Lake.
The City responded to inquiry from Markham Economist and Sun on March 23 with more specific details about dead geese that tested positive, “We have received positive lab test results only from geese found at Country Glen Stormwater Pond. We do have access to rapid tests through our wildlife services partner that have indicated that the dead geese found at Toogood Pond, Monkhouse Pond and Swan Lake have tested positive for avian influenza, however we are still awaiting official test results.”
Candace Inglis found dead geese in Country Glen Pond a week before the City escalated the issue.
“We first noticed about eight geese floating dead in the water and on the shore of Country Glen Pond last Thursday, March 16, when we were out for a walk with our kids. At that time, there was a coyote on the opposite side of the pond eating one of the geese.”
The family suspected bird flu as Toronto Zoo sent out email the week before, advising that there was avian influenza in the area. They called the city to report the dead geese.
On Saturday, Inglis saw only four or five dead geese, but the situation deteriorated rapidly over the weekend.
“On my way home from work on Monday, I stopped by the pond to see how things were and was shocked to see many dead geese in the water and all around the shoreline and path. I was able to count more than 30 on my side of the pond and estimated that there were at least 50 all together because I couldn’t count the others on the far side, but I could see many more.”
Inglis was upset by the dramatically devastating scene, “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, the sheer number of dead geese was shocking.”
Her husband called the animal control right away and workers came by and cleaned everything up the next day.
“I love nature. We moved here from Toronto in part to be close to Rouge Park and the Greenbelt. I hate the thought of animals suffering, and I worry about the virus jumping species as it has in other parts of the world. I worry for the scavengers. The Wednesday before our initial discovery of the dead birds, my family was down at the pond enjoying the wildlife. There were so many birds there (trumpeter swans, kingfishers, blue herons, diving ducks, mallards, etc.) I hope they will be okay.” Inglis said.
She also reminds Markham residents in other area to take extra caution, “I’m sure our pond isn’t the only one experiencing this. People need to be warned to keep their pets away, take down and wash their bird feeders, and call animal control if they see sick or dying birds/animals.”
Markham residents are advised to contact the city by calling 905-415-7531 if they come across sick or injured or dead geese in the community. Christy Lehman, Animal Services supervisor in Markham said, “Geese are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Act. The city is authorized to assist with sick and injured geese and the removal of deceased birds.”
The city continues to monitor the affected areas and begins to set up signage in those areas advising residents that cases have been found and of what to do.
Although the risk to humans and pets is very low, the city is advising residents to be diligent and suggests the following:
More information can be found at york.ca/AvianFlu.