Great Blue Heron fannini subspecies on the south coast of B.C. (Photo by Ross Vennesland)

Starvation claims Great Blue Heron in Crofton

No other contributing factors found in death during a necropsy

A necropsy did not determine anything suspicious or unusual about the death of a Great Blue Heron on the Crofton waterfront.

Lack of food will do that to animals in the wild.

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With the herons being an endangered species, the carcass of the bird led to concerns about whether something untoward might have happened. However, that didn’t turn out to be the case.

“It was pretty decomposed,” said Dr. Helen Schwantje, a wildlife veterinarian for the provincial government in the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations of Wildlife Management.

“We actually sent it to the Agriculture lab in Abbotsford and there was no evidence of disease.”

The Ministry of Agriculture team at the B.C. Animal Health Centre has expertise in veterinary diagnostic testing.

“I can do some things, but not everything so we routinely send birds there,” said Schwantje. “It’s part of the protocol we do.”

The report that came back indicated the adult male heron’s death could be attributed to emaciation. It had been suffering from starvation and there was no indication of any other contributing factors.

Schwantje added it’s always good to keep an eye on these deaths as they occur in the event of salmonella or other diseases being contributing factors.

According to a 2018 report by the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, starvation, without any other predisposing disease, is among the most common causes of mortality documented in great blue herons they’ve studies.

“Indeed, primary starvation was determined to be the cause of mortality in 26% of the 297 great blue herons submitted to our lab since 1993,” the report states.

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