Utah eagle deaths traced to sick grebes

SALT LAKE CITY — The National Wildlife Health Center says testing has confirmed that more than 50 bald eagles died in Utah after scavenging on dead grebes with West Nile virus.

Wildlife officials earlier confirmed the virus caused the eagle die-off that began Dec. 1 and speculated dead migrating aquatic birds such as grebes were the culprit.

The center announced Friday that follow-up testing on dead eared Utah grebes showed they were positive for the virus, the first time it has been seen in them.

West Nile virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, usually infects eagles and other birds during warmer months.

Leslie McFarlane of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources told The Salt Lake Tribune the eagle death toll has climbed to 54, with four currently in rehabilitation.



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