An Economic Evaluation of Selected Treatments for Avian Botulism in Waterfowl on Utah Marshes, 1953-54

Donald A. Smith


Each year thousands of western waterfowl succumb to disease, predators, mechanical injury and other decimating factors. Based on a review of records it is conservatively estimated that an average of 25,000 ducks have succumbed to botulism on western marsh areas annually.

In a recent study, the United States Fish and Wildlife Services valued each duck and goose at $8.00 (McLeod, 1950). Applying this value to the estimated annual numerical loss, a total of $200,000 has been lost each season in mortality of western waterfowl from botulism. Control of this malady would reduce annual waterfowl and monetary losses.

Prevention and cure are the only means of controlling botulism in wild ducks. At present, no economical preventative measure exists and control is based on curing stricken birds. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the cost of treatment and rate of recovery of birds stricken with botulism when treated by selected methods. The 4 treatments selected for evaluation were: (1) hospital inoculation, (2) fresh water, (3) field inoculation, and (4) no treatment or control. Research included a comprehensive evaluation of factors such as age, sex, species, body condition, degrees of affliction, reaction to various amounts of antitoxin, and reaction to selected treatment methods, thought to be pertinent in botulism control. This study was conducted during botulism outbreaks of 1953 and 1954, and was confined to state-owned marshlands of Utah.