Mortality of western gulls (Larus occidentalis) associated with botulism type a in coastal Southern California, USA

Krysta H. Rogers, Omar Gonzales Viera, Francisco A Uzal, Lisa Peronne, Aslı Mete

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A mortality event involving at least 14 Western Gulls (Larus occidentalis) was observed on 10 October 2019 on Huntington State Beach, Orange County, California, US. Clinical signs of affected gulls included generalized weakness and difficulty standing and flying. Six additional Western Gulls with similar clinical signs were admitted for rehabilitation between 24 October and 7 November, including birds from Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, south of Huntington Beach. Eleven carcasses were submitted for postmortem examination, including nine gulls collected on 10 October from Huntington Beach, one collected on 24 October from Laguna Beach, and one collected on 6 November from Newport Beach. Six of seven gulls tested were positive for Clostridium botulinum toxin type A by mouse bioassay, including five collected on 10 October from Huntington Beach and one from Laguna Beach, approximately 23 km south, on 24 October, suggesting the toxin was available to scavenging birds for nearly 2 wk following the original exposure. Botulism type C, and less commonly type E, are most frequently documented in wild birds, including waterfowl and fish-eating birds, respectively. In contrast, botulism type A is the most common cause of foodborne botulism in humans, acquired from food contaminated with C. botulinum spores, but it has not previously been associated with mortality in free-ranging wild birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-661
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of wildlife diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Botulism type A
  • Clostridium botulinum
  • Larus occidentalis
  • Mortality event
  • Western Gull

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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