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Find a dead dove? Agency will take it

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to find out what's killing ring-necked doves.

By JON WILSON

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 6, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- If you find a recently dead ring-necked dove, a state agency wants to come get it for tests.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission hopes the public can help determine what has caused an outbreak of dove deaths in the past few weeks.

"Our guess right now is that it's something like trichomoniasis," which is a parasite, said biologist Alex Kropp. "That's strictly a guess."

Kropp asks that people who find birds call him at (863) 648-3205.

"Having fresh ones is important," Kropp said.

"If two days ago they found a bird and it's been sitting in the sun, those aren't very testable. We need one that's died very recently, within a few hours or overnight."

Kropp, who works out of Lakeland, said he will personally come collect the remains.

He recommends using a plastic bag packed with ice to keep the bird fresh. But there is no need to freeze it, Kropp said.

"You've just got to keep it cool."

Residents in St. Petersburg and the Lealman area have reported finding in yards scores of dead ring-necked doves, also known as turtle doves or ringed turtle doves. The birds started dying as early as Easter, but most have been discovered during May and the early days of June, according to residents.

Kropp said his agency has received "15 or 20" calls, all from the St. Petersburg area.

The ring-necked doves are a pale, sandy color with a narrow, black collar on the back of the neck. Mourning doves are similar, but are darker in color and have no collar.

The ring-necked variety was introduced and established years ago in many cities worldwide, including Tampa and Miami, according to the Audubon Society's field guide. It has adapted to living near humans and is unsuccessful in rural areas, the guide says.

If the dove's killer is a parasite, it can be transferred from bird to bird at feeders and baths, Kropp said. Handling a dead bird will not spread the parasite to humans, he said.

There has been no indication that West Nile virus is the culprit, officials say. That mosquito-borne disease appeared in the United States in 1999, when it infected 62 people in the New York City area. Seven died, along with numerous crows, horses and zoo birds.

It has been confined mostly to northeastern states and a case has never been reported in Florida.

But there has been concern that migrating birds could bring the virus south. Residents can report dead birds online at wld.fwc.state.fl.us/bird or www.floridaconservation.org. Click on "wildlife" and scroll down to "bird mortality database."

Kropp, however, would like to hear directly for the time being.

"It's best to contact me over the next few days," he said.

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