Fungus, not flu, falls fowls

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) retrieved and tested multiple cackling geese carcasses from around Staats Lake on Oct.19 with results showing most of them suffering from aspergillosis, a common type of fungal infection found in the environment. 

Geese were also found in the Salem area as well as further north in the Willamette Valley. The animals were tested for avian influenza (bird flu) as well as accidental poisoning from pesticides with results coming back negative. Ongoing testing and monitoring is still happening to determine other associated causes of death. 

Wild birds that are exposed to high quantities of aspergillosis can sometimes get sick and die. Due to the thousands of miles cackling geese fly to reach the Willamette Valley, they are at risk of increased stress and susceptibility to disease. 

While there is no official determination yet to how exactly the geese picked up the infection, these types of fungal spores are commonly found in both crop fields and natural refuge sites. 

According to the CDC, aspergillosis is not able to spread between animals and people, between individuals or between pets and livestock nor through direct contact. Many people are exposed to the fungus daily with no ill effects, however, those with compromised immune systems or those experiencing lung disease carry a higher risk of developing a health problem by breathing in the aspergillus spores. 

To prevent severe aspergillosis infection for those with weakened immune systems you can wear an N95 respirator mask, have clothing cover your arms and legs when outside or in forested areas as well as ensuring that any exposed injuries are washed with soap and water, especially after exposure to soil or dust. 

More information about aspergillosis risk prevention can be found at 

To help, report clusters of dead birds as soon as possible to 866-968-2600 or email Wildlife. [email protected] and include the location, your name, contact information as well as the time and date the dead birds were observed.