The state Division of Wildlife Resources has begun running tests on a goose, a Hungarian partridge and a great horned owl that may have been poisoned by pesticide spraying.
The three birds were found in Box Elder County, where 20,000 acres of cropland was sprayed last month with the pesticide disyston to combat an infestation of Russian wheat aphids. Spraying was halted when the aphids entered a winter dormancy stage.Disyston carries a warning against allowing grazing on a sprayed field for a year, and division officials have warned area hunters against harvesting animals that display disyston poisoning symptoms.
Symptoms include muscular incoordination, immobility, convulsions or other "irregularities."
Jay Roberson, the division's statewide upland game coordinator, said the three birds showed those symptoms before they died.
"They first wouldn't fly from humans, then when they did, they didn't fly well," he said of the goose and partridge.
Late last month, the goose was caught by a hunter's dog, he said. The hunter then shot the bird and contacted the division. Another hunter did the same after he shot the partridge late last month, he said.
The owl died in captivity earlier this month in the division's Ogden office, said division biologist George Wilson. A woman had caught the owl and brought it to the office.
"It couldn't fly and acted peculiar, very lethargic," Wilson said. "We couldn't tell what was wrong with it. It had no sign of any injuries."
The three birds are now being tested in laboratories in Logan and Provo for other possible causes of their behavior, such as bacterial infections or internal injury, Roberson said.
If those tests prove negative, the birds will be sent to laboratories in Arizona or Wisconsin to be given toxicology examinations to detect disyston. No results will be available before mid-January, he said.