PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Environmental organizations are working together to investigate why Rhode Island has been seeing an increase in dead waterbirds washing ashore.
The R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM) issued a warning to the public on Friday, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy. They said it’s normal to see some gulls, cormorants, shearwaters, terns, seabirds or shorebirds wash up dead on the beach this time of year, but Rhode Island and other locations on the East Coast have seen higher than usual numbers over the past few weeks.
Last week, 15 dead shearwaters were found on Second Beach in Middletown, officials said, adding that Block Island has also seen many waterbird deaths.
The cause of these deaths is unknown at this time, according to the DEM, but waterbirds in other areas have recently tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
While humans are at low risk of contracting HPAI, the DEM urged people to avoid contact with dead birds and keep dogs away from the remains.
The DEM and other conservation groups are monitoring the state’s beaches and testing specimens collected there.
Anyone who comes across a dead bird can report it to the DEM by filling out this online form.