Friday, October 28, 2011

News of Possible Botulism Outbreak in Great Lakes Region

What's killing the birds in Georgian Bay?

The beaches along scenic Georgian Bay are littered with thousands of dead birds – that Federal and provincial officials believe the cause of the death is a severe form of botulism, apparently from the birds eating dead fish.

To find out more about botulism, we spoke to Doug Campbell, a Pathologist with the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre at the University of Guelph, about how the disease grows, affects birds and fish, and whether human populations have anything to worry about.

Is botulism that is killing the birds and fish in Georgian Bay?

No it’s not confirmed at this time but it’s strongly suspected.

Why is botulism suspected in this case?

For a couple of reasons I guess. The first is that this botulism is a repeated event on the lower great lakes. At this time of year, since 1998, there is almost invariably been one or more botulism mortality events occurring. So the geographical location is new but the range of the species involved and the pattern of events, the timing of it, is fairly typical with what we’ve come to expect with botulism.

The other reason is that there is probably a shortage of other candidate explanations. I’ve had the opportunity to look at a few birds from this occurrence at Wasaga Beach over the last month because it has been sort of building a long period of time and so far we’ve not discovered any evidence of any other disease in these birds. With something like this we do try and make sure that we’re not missing something else rather than just assume it is botulism but the probability is that it will turn out to be Type E botulism.

So Georgian Bay is a new location? What could contribute to the botulism moving there?

We first saw type E botulism here in Canada in 1998. The disease had previously occurred on the American side of the great lakes as far back, that we know of at least, in the early 1960s. Why the disease comes and goes isn’t really known because it was quite an important disease on Lake Michigan and the American side of Lake Huron and even up into superior into the 1960s and then completely disappeared for twenty years. And then it reappeared in Lake Michigan in the 1980s and again after that, it disappeared.

As I said, we first saw it in south-eastern Lake Huron, down near the provincial park in 1998. Following that it moved eastward, south and eastward into Lake Erie and then eastward into Lake Ontario until it was seen down in the very eastern end of Lake Ontario. On Lake Huron, we really hadn’t seen much north of Kincardine until just a couple of years ago and over the last couple of years, we’ve seen some cases up and over the tip of the Bruce peninsula. So this occurrence in Wasaga beach area, I guess you could say is a natural, a logical eastward extension of where we have seen it before.

Global Toronto
Photo courtesy of Global Toronto
24 Oct 2011
James Armstrong

Location: Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada


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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Notification to WHER Users: Create New Accounts Now Fixed

Late last week the Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER) was experiencing some technical problems, which was preventing users from creating new accounts. This problem has now been fixed.

WHER is still in beta development and we expect other minor problems to arise as people use the system. If you are experiencing difficulties or having questions about WHER, please contact us at

The WHER Team

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Notification to WHER Users: Unable to Create New Accounts

Currently, the Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER) is experiencing some technical problems. The system is unable to complete creating new accounts. If a user attempts this, they will get the following message:

* An error was encountered when we tried to send you an account confirmation error message.

The WHER team is working on the problem and will resolve it as quickly as possible. When it is fixed, we will post another announcement.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

The WHER Team

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why do I need to create an account before I submit a report?

Most of the time, submitters should not expect to receive any follow-up information after reporting an event to WHER. There is simply not enough manpower to investigate every single animal death. HOWEVER, the information you submit, when used in aggregation with other user's single observations, begin to create an overall baseline of mortality incidence information.

In the event there are specific questions pertaining to your submitted report from a natural resources agency or an authority in the jurisdiction where your report was submitted, and you have checked the check-box in the 'My Account' section of WHER that says: ' I authorize project or natural resources personnel to contact me regarding my reports,' you may be contacted in order to get additional information if you are willing to provide it.

It is also possible that WHER personnel may contact you if we have questions about your report such as encountering any technical issues with your submissions or problems with your account information. Therefore, it is important that we have users create accounts in WHER and provide email address and phone contact details.

Thank you for participating in WHER!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

WHER - down for maintenance 02/10/2011

In order to perform database modifications this Thursday, February 10, 2011, the Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER) application will be temporarily offline.  The outage is planned for early in the morning (approximately 7am CST) and we hope to bring the site back up as quickly as possible. 

Users will still be able to access the WHER URL (, but a temporary page will be up in its place until the system is brought back online.

Thank you for understanding!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Short Video Introduction to WHER

The Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER) team has just launched a two minute video to provide a quick overview of WHER. The video highlights WHER's features and describes its purpose. Click play to watch the video now or view it here on YouTube.

The WHER team strongly encourages everyone to pass this video link along through email, listservs, blogs and other social networking tools to let others know about WHER.

The more reports WHER receives about sick and/or dead wild animals sighted by an engaged public, the greater the potential for everyone to gain a better understanding of wildlife disease and its impact on human, domestic animals and wildlife.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Oops, something is wrong with my entry! How do I change it?

In the event you complete the entry of a record and then realize, OOPS - something went wrong!  Don't fret.  You can quickly correct the problem by removing the erroneous entry and re-entering the correct information.  At the present, the ability to edit is not available.  However, due to the simplicity of the reporting process, it is a simple task to remove and re-add an event with the correct information. 

How to delete an erroneous entry on WHER (see full help file)
  1. Log into WHER (
  2. Click on the 'My Reports' option from the main menu or the menu bar
  3. Next to the corresponding entry in your report, locate the 'Delete' link
  4. Click the 'Delete' link and confirm in the pop-up window that you wish to delete this record
  5. That's it, you're done.
After you have removed the erroneous entry, you can start a new report to replace the incorrect entry.

Please make sure you spend a few minutes reviewing your data at the Review step in the simple data entry forms.  If you have additional questions, feel free to email us at