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Dead birds causing concern at park in Muskegon County

"They have this drunken walk," described Linda Hutchison. "They're falling over and essentially becoming paralyzed."

NORTON SHORES, Mich. — Concern has risen in Muskegon County as residents begin to discover dead birds at a park in Norton Shores

Viewers reached out to 13 ON YOUR SIDE after finding what they claim were dozens of dead cormorant birds along the water at Dune Harbor Park. 

Before continuing, this is a warning that the video and other parts of this story could be upsetting to some readers. 

In the middle of May, a poultry facility in Muskegon County was the first place the highly pathogenic avian influenza was detected. 

Now, residents wonder if that's the reason there's so many birds in the wild. 

"I hike this trail almost every morning with my dog," said resident Linda Hutchison. "I have been seeing the dead cormorant birds and dead fish."

"It just seemed to be multiplying," she added. "I lost count at, I think, like, 45 birds."

Hutchison also took videos while walking along the water at Dune Harbor Park over the weekend, watching a bird struggle to stand and eventually pass away. 

"They have this drunken walk," she described. "They're falling over and essentially becoming paralyzed."

13 ON YOUR SIDE sent crews to visit the park Monday afternoon and did see dead birds. 

"It's foamed up and that's where all the dead animals are, like laying in the foam," Hutchison described. "I've seen people kayaking and swimming in here, so it's a real concern."

Hutchison said she sent her videos to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and they claimed the birds were dying of the Avian Flu. 

"But I wondered about that because I did see quite a few dead fish as well," she added. 

In a statement, Steve Chadwick, Assistant Chief of the DNR Wildlife Division, said the following:

"Regarding the cormorant deaths at Dune Harbor Park, of the birds tested, one was confirmed Friday to have highly pathogenic avian influenza. The DNR believes it is highly likely that HPAI is responsible for several dozen cormorant deaths, as well as fatalities in other bird species. 

It's known HPAI has been circulating in several wild bird populations throughout Michigan for several months now. It's reasonable to conclude that as the case here. Any time a lot of birds congregate, the opportunity to spread disease increases."

Though Hutchison and her friend Donna Miles still want more action taken. 

"I feel like getting the dead animals cleaned up would be a good start," Miles said. "And to do some more research to really find out what's causing it."

"It could be the avian flu, or it could be chemicals," Hutchison said, "and if it's chemicals, at least get to the bottom of it."

"It's a beautiful park, you'd hate to have kids, newborn babies, toddlers, subjected to whatever is killing these animals or even have to see the dead birds," she added. 

The Michigan DNR included in their statement:

"Our continued message has been for people to limit their contact with wild birds, and with all wildlife for that matter. If you see dead birds, do not touch them, but please do report it through the DNR's Eyes in the Field app at Michigan.gov/EyesInTheField. The public can be a huge help in providing information that can help us better understand movement of the virus."

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