Why are birds suddenly dying on Sarasota area beaches?

Sarasota County

ANNA MARIA ISLAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A mysterious illness is killing seagulls throughout Siesta Key and Anna Maria Island. No one seems to know why.

Experts are searching for answers to make sure the trend does not continue northward.

Ed Straight from Wildlife, Inc. is hoping four laughing gulls will make it. When they came in, they struggled to stand or flap their wings.

But they’re the lucky ones.

Just last week, two dozen laughing gulls were found dead nearby.

“We’ve never really seen this many dead laughing gulls in these areas like this before,” said Straight.

It’s a trend that seemingly came out of nowhere.

Dead laughing gulls were spotted on Siesta Key on Oct. 2. Since then, the number has skyrocketed. Just about on a daily basis, sick or dead birds have been reported throughout Siesta Key.

Then, over the past few days, the trend appeared on Anna Maria Island. It’s always the same species – juvenile laughing gulls.

“It’s concerning because mainly right now we don’t know what it is,” said Straight.

Save Our Seabirds in Sarasota just took in two birds on Wednesday.

“They were all very down, very weak, almost drunken looking,” said Save Our Seabirds Senior Hospital Technician Jonathan Hande.

Officials do not believe it’s red tide. Instead, the experts believe it’s a type of bacterial illness, like botulism.

The FWC is investigating as well and time is of the essence. Officials want to quickly get to the bottom of this and prevent it from occurring again.

“Is it trash on the beach? Did something wash up that needs to be removed?” said Hande.

If you spot sick or dead wildlife, contact FWC or your nearest wildlife agency.

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