Iowa DNR: More than 100 geese died due to extreme winter conditions

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 5:31 AM CST
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CORALVILLE, Iowa (KCRG) - It’s been more than a week since the Iowa DNR started investigating reports from residents about sick and dead geese near the dam of the Iowa River in Coralville.

The Iowa DNR said more than 100 geese died after a lack of food supply due to the extreme winter conditions.

A lot of ice melted on the river and the water levels were high when the DNR first started receiving the reports about the geese. Residents told the DNR the geese were unable to fly and were suffering from seizures, some for hours at a time.

The state’s wildlife veterinarian Dr. Rachel Ruden said there could be more geese in Iowa experiencing the same thing, but the public just isn’t aware of it.

“You know, I think the location being so public and visible that was where we heard about the geese, it does not mean there weren’t geese in pockets across Iowa experiencing the same conditions and also affected,” Ruden said.

Wildlife Biologist Steven Woodruff on Monday said he didn’t initially see any problems with the fowl and didn’t see any more odd-acting geese, which is a good sign.

Woodruff said the problems with the geese are hopefully behind them. However, the DNR did run tests which showed some geese have a thiamine deficiency, also known as B1.

Out of 1,000 geese in the area, about 20 percent were affected by this nutrient deficiency.

He said the problem is due to what the geese were eating.

Due to the extreme cold, geese had to eat a freshwater fish called shad. That particular fish can cause a deficiency in vitamin B1 - which can cause impaired brain function and death in birds.

“So it was a good food source, or a good source to feed upon, not the best diet as we are finding out, but it’s concentrated,” Woodruff said. “And that’s where they kind of concentrated and took advantage of the shad coming over the dam.”

The DNR said geese that were critically affected have either died or have been taken to rehab facilities. Around 80 geese are in rehab facilities across Iowa and DNR reports more than 100 geese have died from the vitamin B1 deficiency.

Woodruff said it’s common for the public to be concerned about wildlife, but he cautions against handling them when they are sick.

With more snow melting, Dr. Ruden said the geese now have access to other vegetation, such as plants, that have the nutrients the birds need.

She said most of the geese in rehab will make a full recovery, although some will have permanent neurological impairment because of the nutrient deficiency.

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