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Kaua'i Avian Botulism Surveillance Using Detector Canines 2017-2018

March 9, 2021

Hawai'i's endangered waterbirds have experienced epizootics caused by ingestion of prey that accumulated a botulinum neurotoxin produced by the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum (avian botulism; Type C). Waterbird carcasses, necrophagous flies, and their larvae initiate and spread avian botulism, a food-borne paralytic disease lethal to waterbirds. Each new carcass has potential to develop toxin-accumulating necrophagous vectors amplifying outbreaks and killing hundreds of endangered birds. Early carcass removal is an effective mitigation strategy for preventing avian intoxication, toxin concentration in necrophagous and secondary food webs, and reducing the magnitude of epizootics. However, rapid detection of carcasses can be problematic and labor intensive. Therefore, we tested a new method using scent detection canines for avian botulism surveillance on the island of Kaua'i. During operational surveillance and a randomized double-blind field trial, trained detector canines with experienced field handlers improved carcass detection probability, especially in dense vegetation. Detector canines could be combined with conventional surveillance to optimize search strategies for carcass removal and are a useful tool to reduce risks of the initiation and propagation of avian botulism. This data release contains three tables: (1) a summary of surveillance GPS track data, (2) a list of surveyed areas and environmental conditions, (3) a summary of detection trial data and environmental conditions. Other data was used in the project, including a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service map of the study area and specific GPS track data on private farmland; however, since both of these data sources contain sensitive geographic data about privately owned land and farms, these data sources are not included in this data release. All references to private land have been assigned unrecognizable alphanumeric identification codes.