BOSTON

Boston Public Garden Lagoon to Be Drained After 20 Ducks Die of Possible Botulism

Pet owners are advised to keep their pets away from material being removed from the lagoon as well as any sick or dead ducks, as they can harbor the botulinum toxin

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The Boston Public Garden lagoon is going to be drained and cleaned after about 20 ducks died of what is believed to be botulism, which grows in stagnant pools of water during periods of extreme heat.

Rob Halpin of the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center said beginning Sunday, about 20 wild mallard ducks were brought to their facility in Jamaica Plain by good Samaritans and park rangers. The birds were suffering from paralysis and severe respiratory issues.

None of the ducks were able to be successfully treated, and they all had to be euthanized.

"The investigations are still in progress, but information to date suggests that the birds may be suffering from botulism," Halpin said in an email. "Botulism is caused by a neurotoxin produced by a bacterium known as Clostridium botulinum, which can grow in stagnant pools of water during periods of intense prolonged heat, such as the period Boston has just endured."

Another contributing factor is believed to be the absence of the Swan Boats this year due to the pandemic. The paddle wheels from the boats introduce oxygen into the lagoon and create turbulence that discourages unwanted growth.

MSPCA-Angell pathologists are in contact with state animal health officials and wildlife biologists to determine what can be done to prevent additional infections.

Halpin said the Boston Parks and Recreation Department has already begun the process of draining and cleaning the lagoon to remove organic material and bacteria. That process is expected to take two to three days. It will then be re-filled with fresh water.

Pet owners are advised to keep their pets away from the material being removed from the lagoon as well as any sick or dead ducks, as they can harbor the botulinum toxin.

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