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Warning issued on Martha’s Vineyard as ‘hundreds’ of dead cormorants found across island

“This is extremely dangerous to us as a small island."

A Double-crested Cormorant sits on rock as swans swim by in background on Jacobs Pond in Norwell in 2014. Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe

Tisbury Animal Control issued a warning Monday that “hundreds” of dead cormorants are being found across Martha’s Vineyard, cautioning that the deaths may be related to avian influenza. 

In a Facebook post, the department warned people to stay away from any dead birds they may see in the water or on beaches. 

“This is extremely dangerous to us as a small island. PLEASE inform your local [Animal Control Officer] if you find any dead birds,” the department wrote. “It does say it is not all confirmed BUT we have had hundreds of dead Cormorants washing up all over the island. The ACO’s across the island have collected them and many were sent off to Mass Fish and Wildlife for testing.”

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Tisbury Animal Control said it received information regarding high numbers of birds dying of the avian influenza in Scotland and that reports of shearwaters and eiders washing up in Massachusetts and Rhode Island “should be taken seriously.”

Strains of avian flu spread mainly through bird populations, but can infect humans through contact with sick birds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tisbury Animal Control warned that the cause of death for the cormorants has not yet been confirmed and said the organization will update the public.

“MOST IMPORTANTLY: DO NOT TOUCH THEM!!! Keep your dogs leashes if on beaches so they do not get contaminated,” Tisbury Animal Control wrote. “Take care when going in water, many are floating in seaweed etc.”

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