8 bald eagle deaths at Thurmond Lake this season

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 12:56 PM
Last updated 1:38 PM
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At least eight bald eagles died at Thurmond Lake during the winter and early spring because of an algae-borne neurotoxin linked to the invasive weed hydrilla.

The birds, some of which were recovered by wildlife authorities, succumbed to avian vacuolar myelinopathy, caused by algae that grow on mats of hydrilla that are popular feeding sites for small aquatic birds called coots.

Because coots are eaten by bald eagles, the small birds play a major role in AVM outbreaks, which create fatal lesions in the brains of infected birds.

Ken Boyd, a conservation biologist with the Army Corps of Engineers, said low water levels and unseasonably warm temperatures may have hastened the growth of hydrilla and made existing mats of the invasive weed more accessible to feeding birds.

The eight eagle deaths confirmed at the reservoir this season are down slightly from the previous season, when 11 eagles died.

Eagle mortality at Thurmond Lake is the focus of research by wildlife agencies and by University of Georgia scientists.

One option under study to control the problem involves introducing grass-eating carp to the reservoir in hopes that the fish would eliminate the hydrilla, which in turn would reduce the likelihood of AVM outbreaks.

Although eagle deaths at the reservoir continue to recur, Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources reported last week that eagle populations across the state continue to expand.

Aerial surveys in January and March documented 158 occupied nesting territories, 116 successful nests and 190 young eagles fledged. All three totals are up from last year’s 142 nesting territories, 111 successful nests and 175 eaglets.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119,

UGA research on Thurmond Lake eagle mortality:


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yu nah ee tah
yu nah ee tah 04/19/12 - 06:04 am
Is the DNR aware of how

Is the DNR aware of how easily hydrilla spreads? Maybe what it will take is hydrilla spreading across the state by any number of methods to get the DNR to wake up to what a nuisance hydrilla is to all wildlife, including homo erectus.

Let us not forget Georgia had one hydrilla related drowning in Clayton County, Henri-Christophe Bouget, athletic teen age boy, got tangled up in the hydrilla and will never swim again. The lake had to be drained so the divers could find his body.

UGA recommended grass carp and the carp were immediately put in and did a great job.

Small consolation to Jean-Claude and Miyoshi Bouget - whose child will be next?

DuhJudge 04/19/12 - 07:07 am
Save an eagle, save a boy,

Save an eagle, save a boy, save money, save a lake. Why doesn't reasoning work to convince beaurocrats to make a move? Budgets. They have fixed budgets that include their salaries and that is the only way to change beaurocracy. They have to get a new budget allocation.

grinder48 04/19/12 - 08:26 am
Rob - What's the downside of

Rob - What's the downside of introducing the carp?

itsanotherday1 04/19/12 - 08:35 am
Grinder, you asked Rob, but I

Grinder, you asked Rob, but I can fill in a little. I do know that carp can sterilize a lake completely if the right number are not put in. They will eat until there is not a piece of vegetation left. With a lake the size of Clark Hill though, I can't fathom that becoming an issue.

They do work though. I have a small (1+acre) pond that developed a weed infestation. I bought six of the carp from the hatchery in Dearing, and they flat cleaned it up.

ReleehwEoj 04/19/12 - 11:39 am
Re grass carp: in the early

Re grass carp: in the early nineties, my neighborhood's 33 acre lake was infested with an aquatic weed called Naiad to the point that fishing was not possible within 15-20 feet of the shore. We purchased 1K 6" grass carp and within a couple of years that particular weed was eradicated. Don't know how many of those carp are left but the ones we do see are 3' and longer in length. The pond is not "sterile" as alluded to above. In fact, we have another invasive weed that grows along the shoreline that the carp will not eat. The only control we have found for it (Alligatorweed) is drawing the lake down during cold weather.

catfish20 04/19/12 - 02:34 pm
Bring in the carp! How many

Bring in the carp! How many years and how many studies will it take before something is done? This could have been handled years ago when the outbreak was small. Now the hydrilla has spread and the fix more expensive.

DuhJudge 04/20/12 - 07:23 am
The carp are sterile

The carp are sterile themselves and do not reproduce. When those big fish die you should see the vultures. But the weeds are gone. I suggest every fisherman go buy some and put them in the lake. Forget waiting on the DNR or the Corps.

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