River Stour: 40 swans found dead near Sudbury

River Stour: 40 swans found dead near Sudbury

October 6, 2022 at 7:30 am

Forty dead swans, two black-headed gulls and one heron have been found dead on the River Stour in the last 10 days.

The number has jumped significantly since last Wednesday, when 15 swans were discovered in the waterway near Sudbury.

The Sudbury Common Lands Charity said bird flu is suspected to be behind the deaths.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is carrying out tests on the animals to determine the cause.

“We are deeply concerned,” said Ross Bentley, a trustee at the Sudbury Common Lands Charity.

“In the summer we usually have about 60 swans in this area and, as the winter months approach, 100.

“That affects a large part of the population.

“With the rate at which they are dying and the symptoms they are showing, we believe it is bird flu.

“We have notified Defra but they are yet to respond. We cannot confirm that at this time.”

Of the 40 swans, 37 have been recovered so far.

Many of the animals have been found at Brundon Lane mill pond – a hot-spot for dog walkers.

Defra has issued the following advice to residents:

  • Stick to footpaths;
  • Keep dogs on leads;
  • Do not touch dead or sick birds;
  • Do not touch surfaces contaminated by droplets;
  • If you keep poultry, wash your hands and disinfect your shoes before taking care of your birds;
  • Please report dead birds to Defra.

“Swans are a big part of our local landscape and they are a well-known attraction to the area,” Mr Bentley said.

“So this is a very challenging time for all of us – especially our rangers.”

The news follows a series of bird flu outbreaks in Suffolk and wider East Anglia.

Defra has said that wild birds are susceptible to a range of diseases and injuries and that not all dead birds found were infected with bird flu.

However, people should call Defra’s helpline (03459 33 55 77) if they find one or more dead birds of prey or owls, three or more dead geese or wild waterfowl (swans, geese and ducks) or five or more dead birds of all species .

Although bird flu is potentially devastating to commercial poultry and wild bird flocks, Public Health England (PHE) advises that the public health risk from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency advises that avian flu poses a very low food safety risk to UK consumers.