Five ducks that were found floating in Assiniboine Park pond have been sent for further testing to determine cause of their death.

Laura Curtis with the Assiniboine Park Zoo said the results of the necropsy will take at least two weeks to come back.

Curtis said the pond’s water gets tested on a regular basis and it was checked a few days before the ducks were found.

She said the samples did not reveal anything of concern in the water.

“It’s a natural ecosystem. We use no chemicals in it,” added Curtis.


Dr. Stephen Petersen, the head of conservation and research at Assiniboine Park Zoo, said the cause of death is likely avian botulism.

He said it’s caused by a common bacterium in bugs and snails, and when the duck eats an infected bug, it causes paralysis and death.

“There's been big outbreaks in the prairies where millions of birds have died and we are pretty lucky, because we have lots of people looking out for the animals in the park. So when we start to see signs of something, the vets can come in and address it," Petersen said.

Zoo staff said large numbers of deaths usually happen in the wild when an epidemic goes unchecked.

Petersen said the algae in the pond has nothing to do with the sickness. Instead, it's aerating the pond, reducing the chance of infection in insects.

Staff at the zoo are also testing other ducks they believe were infected to learn more about their problem.