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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are advising the public of recent waterbirds (gulls, cormorants, shearwaters, terns, seabirds, shorebirds) found dead along the Rhode Island coast.
A relatively small number of seabirds and other waterbirds washing up dead on beaches is normal this time of year, but in the past several weeks multiple locations along the Atlantic Coast, including Rhode Island, have seen higher than usual numbers.
Due to the recent outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), wildlife officials are cautioning the public to remain vigilant and avoid any dead birds found washed up on the shoreline. While risk of HPAI to humans is low, the public is urged not to touch dead birds and to keep dogs on leashes and away from carcasses.
The cause of these recent dead waterbirds in Rhode Island is not yet known. However, waterbirds in other areas have tested positive in recent months for HPAI. Past seabird and other waterbird mortality events have been attributed to lack of resources, including lack of fish for foraging. In Rhode Island, Block Island has experienced many recent mortalities.
State, federal, and non-government conservation organizations are collaborating to test a sample of specimens and are continually monitoring beaches. RIDEM, USFWS, and partners will keep the public updated as more information becomes available after specimens are tested.
What the public can do:
HPAI continues to be a risk, primarily for domestic poultry. People with poultry/backyard flocks should disinfect shoes/boots before visiting beaches, parks, and refuges. For more information on HPAI including FAQs, click here. If a dead bird is found, you can report the siting to the Rhode Island Division of Fish & Wildlife by clicking here.