Fungal disease killing Whatcom County swans

BELLINGHAM -- A fungal disease has killed more than 149 trumpeter swans this winter, the Bellingham Herald reported, with many of the dead birds affected with the disease that comes from eating moldy grain in fields and farmyards.

According to the Herald, biologists from the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife sent a few of the dead birds to a laboratory to determine the cause of death, fearing it

would be lead poisoning from ingestion of hunters' bullets. Instead, they lead poisoning in birds seems to be dropping, while fungal contamination was high.

Fungal outbreaks just seem to happen in waterfowl populations on occasion, the Herald reported. A similar outbreak killed hundreds of ducks a few years ago.

The Herald reported that swan populations, while increasing, are stressed because fields in the Sumas area once used for dairy pastures have been converted to berry fields, giving very little food for the swans. Trumpeter swans have been wiped out in much of their Eastern population, the Herald reported, due to loss of habitat.

Trumpeter Swans are migratory birds, and the heaviest bird native to North America.