Swans found dead on Sudbury's water meadows prompt bird flu warning
A sudden surge in wild bird deaths on Sudbury’s water meadows has led to a public warning to take safety precautions, due to a suspected outbreak of bird flu.
The Sudbury Common Lands Charity revealed that it helped to remove the carcasses of 18 mute swans, two black-headed gulls and a heron from the nature reserve last week, in what it described on Friday as a 'challenging week for our rangers'.
The organisation has also notified the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) about the presence of the dead animals, which were predominately found in the Brundon area.
All birds on these affected premises have been humanely culled, while a three-kilometre protection zone and 10km surveillance zone were implemented around the site.
A cause of death for the birds identified on the Sudbury common lands has not been officially confirmed by Defra, but local rangers indicated they are 'proceeding on the assumption that it is likely we are dealing with an outbreak of avian influenza'.
Nick Shimwell, ranger at the Sudbury Common Lands Charity, told SuffolkNews: “We are taking it a day at a time at the moment.
“This is a new and unprecedented situation, but we have established connections with the relevant persons at Babergh District Council.
“We should be able to continue to have the carcasses of dead wild birds removed from site as quickly as possible.”
The charity also praised the support of Sudbury councillor Steve Hall, Long Melford councillor John Nunn, and the staff at Sudbury Town Council and Babergh District Council for their assistance.
Rangers are now working alongside Babergh’s environmental protection team to keep an eye on the situation, and will collaborate if more dead birds are found.
Due to the confirmed outbreaks of bird flu in the county, members of the public have been advised to follow Defra guidance when visiting the water meadows.
Walkers are asked to stick to the footpaths and keep their dogs on leads, and they should not pick up or touch dead or sick wild birds, their feathers or any surfaces contaminated with bird droppings.
Anybody who owns poultry or other birds is also urged to make sure they wash their hands, and ensure their footwear is cleaned and disinfected, before they tend to their birds.
To prevent the rangers from being overwhelmed with calls, members of the public who come across a dead bird should report it by sending an email to email@example.com.
The town council will then collate these reports and pass them onto the Sudbury Common Lands Charity and Babergh District Council.
For further information about bird flu and the latest updates on where outbreaks have been detected, go online to www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu.
Sightings can also be reported via the Defra hotline on 03459 335577.