SARASOTA, Fla. — Wildlife rescuers are not sure what is causing dozens of birds to end up sick or dying on local beaches.
Jonathan Hande, a senior hospital technician with Save Our Seabirds, said the facility has received nearly 20 sick laughing gulls.
He said several of the birds died in less than 24 hours after arriving at the clinic.
"We're not entirely sure what's causing these problems," said Hande.
Save Our Seabirds in Sarasota rehabilitates sick birds and releases them. Hande said the clinic is caring for several laughing gulls commonly called "seagulls."
"If you're on the beach just kind of keep an eye out for the birds. If you see one that's acting a little weird just approach it. If it stumbles or falls over or you're concerned, you can give us a call," said Hande.
Hande said several sick birds have been found on Lido and Siesta Key beaches. Others have been found deceased.
"We recently got confirmation of a place called Passage Key just north of Anna Maria that had 25 dead gulls on it," said Hande.
Hande said they are working to figure out how these birds got sick. In Southwest Florida over the past week, red tide was observed in very low to low concentrations in and/or offshore of Lee County and background to high concentrations in and/or offshore of Collier County. Hande does not think red tide is causing the illness.
"FWC has been notified and they're going to be doing some research to see what's going on and to figure out if it's botulism or just pollutants from sewage or whatever that has been getting into the water," said Hande.
FWC said it has received reports of sick laughing gulls in the Lido Key and Siesta Beach areas and currently are investigating. FWC encourages the public to report any sick or dead birds to its reporting page: http://legacy.myfwc.com/bird/default.asp
If you see a sick bird, contact Save Our Seabirds at 941-388-3010.