CHEYENNE - A botulism outbreak at the Game and Fish Downer Bird Farm near Yoder has killed more than 2,700 pheasants in recent weeks and will affect the number of pheasants available for release during hunting season this fall.
“Botulism is a naturally occurring disease and cannot be treated,” said bird farm superintendent Steve Schafer. “Its greatest prevalence is associated with hot, dry weather and similar weather conditions were present when the bird farm had a botulism outbreak nearly 30 years ago. Losses are likely to continue until cooler weather arrives.”
The disease is spread through association of healthy birds with dead and dying birds. To help reduce the risk of transmission, workers at the bird farm have been walking the pens multiple times each day removing dead and sick birds. Botulism is not related to the bacterial infection psittacosis that resulted in removal of pheasants from the farm last spring.
At this time it is not known what effect the disease will have on pheasant stocking this fall. The Game and Fish anticipates stocking the usual number of birds for the special Springer pheasant hunt and Glendo hunt. The effect of stocking on walk-in areas is not known at this time, but due to drought conditions, cover on some of the areas normally stocked is very sparse and would likely have not received birds for the 2012 hunting season.
According to Scott Edberg, assistant wildlife division chief, “the Game and Fish will be evaluating areas and numbers of birds to be stocked once the disease outbreak ends and total losses can be determined. Once this is completed, it is our intent to maximize pheasant releases in those walk-in areas that have suitable cover and are most often used by hunters. As in the past, we will have available for the public, a list of walk-in areas that are stocked with pheasants.”
The Downer Bird Farm typically produces 15,000-18,000 pheasants each year.
(Contact: Al Langston (307) 777-4540)