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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: 11/22/00
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CONTACT: Paul Castelli, NJ Div., Fish & Wildlife 609-748-2047 or Steve Atzert, US Fish & Wildlife Service 609-652-1665

HUNTERS WARNED TO AVOID ATLANTIC BRANT

The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife is recommending that hunters do not shoot, handle or consume Atlantic brant until further notice.

About 450 dead Atlantic brant have been collected from the Brigantine Unit of Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Atlantic County, according to Refuge Manager Steve Atzert of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Tests are underway to determine the cause of the die-off.

The Atlantic brant hunting season resumes in the coastal zones, where most Atlantic brant are found, on Thursday, November 23, and runs through Jan. 9. The season was open previously Nov. 4 - 14.

"We urge hunters to stay clear of Atlantic brant, especially those behaving abnormally," said State Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Shinn. "As soon as we know the cause of these deaths, we will revise our recommendations accordingly."

The principal site of the brant die-off at the refuge has been the impoundments. They have been closed to the public, and all carcasses have been picked up and burned on site to limit the potential spread of disease organisms. Hunters, anglers, and the general public are asked to report the location of any sick or dead waterfowl to Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge at 609-652-1665.

The cause of the die-off is still unknown, though pathologists have ruled out chemical and pesticide contamination, according to Dr. Kimberli Miller, a veterinarian with the US Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisc. Preliminary tests for some bacteria were negative, though additional tests for bacteria and viruses are underway.

The diagnostic effort is being conducted jointly by the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife's Office of Wildlife Health and Forensics, the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Health, and the US Department of Agriculture, Veterinary Services.

Atlantic brant is a small, brown, black and white maritime goose that breeds in the Canadian arctic and winters along the Atlantic coast. On average, 75 percent of the Atlantic brant population winters in New Jersey. In January 2000, 157,156 Atlantic brant were counted in the Atlantic Flyway. Of these, 120,225 were in New Jersey, mainly in the coastal salt marshes and estuaries.

In the 1999-2000 hunting season, close to 1600 brant hunters harvested approximately 6,600 brant. Other species harvested this time of year include ducks, Canada geese and snow geese, none of which appear to be involved in the die-off.

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