The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has confirmed that the deaths of several bald eagles in the state were caused by West Nile Virus.
Officials at the DWR say they aren’t certain how the birds contracted the virus, but they believe it was from eating the dead carcasses of infected eared grebes. Each year during their winter migration more than two million eared grebes stop at the Great Salt Lake. Officials say this year they’ve found several dead eared grebes with toxicology results consistent with what they’re seeing in the bald eagles. Wildlife Disease Coordinator Leslie McFarlane says even with the discovery of the West Nile Virus, humans and other domestic animals shouldn’t worry.
“In order to be transferred from birds to people it has to occur through mosquito bites, and that’s the same as to horses and other domestic animals like that," she says. "So, you know, where there’s no mosquitoes circulating we don’t believe there is any threat to domestic livestock or humans at this time.”
McFarlane says they expect to see more eagles die until the eared grebes move on in the next few weeks. To date, 27 bald eagles have died from the virus.