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Wildlife Disease

Wildlife disease is nothing new for the Salton Sea. The first recorded disease die-off occurred in 1917, a decade after the filling of the Sea. Disease outbreaks have occurred on and off at the Sea up until the current day, and will probably continue in the future. Fortunately, the occurrence of disease and numbers of sick and dead birds has been declining over the past few years.

California Brown Pelican (left), American Avocets (upper right), and Northern Pintail (lower right), Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Why does the Salton Sea have a disease problem?

There is no clear-cut answer to this question. Rather, it contains a series of possible answers. The Salton Sea is a unique and complex ecosystem. It is nutrient-rich with millions of birds that visit every year. This area of southern California has extreme temperature changes, ranging from 115° in the summer to 50° in the winter. The Salton Sea has many different habitats, all lying within its boundaries, including salt water, freshwater, brackish water, marsh areas, and upland areas. All of these characteristics contribute to the potential of disease occurring at the Salton Sea. The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge Complex, working in conjunction with the California Department of Fish and Game, the Salton Sea Authority, and other organizations, have developed an extensive wildlife disease monitoring program aimed at reducing the impact disease has on the wildlife that depends on the Salton Sea.

Last updated: May 20, 2011