A wildlife charity is calling for urgent action to protect the region’s barnacle geese.
The “worst outbreak of bird flu in the UK” has claimed the lives of thousands of migratory birds.
Some of the first cases in the region were found in the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve near Dumfries in November.
And since then avian flu has been detected in locations throughout the region.
Now the RSPB wants an emergency moratorium restricting hunting in Solway for the rest of the wildfowl season to reduce disturbance and stress to the remaining geese and help ensure they can return to Norway at the end of winter.
At last count, the Svalbard Barnacle Geese population had dropped from 43,703 in November 2021 to 27,133 this month, a 38% decrease from last winter.
RSPB Scotland head of habitats and species Paul Walton said: “We are in the midst of an unprecedented outbreak and unfortunately Solway appears to be the epicenter of this in the UK.
“Our birds are suffering and need an urgent reprieve to help them get through this winter and ensure that as many of the remaining ones as possible survive to migrate back to Scandinavia to breed in the summer.
“The best way we can do this is by reducing the cumulative impacts of disturbances, including on wild birds. We also ask that the public be considerate and help reduce nuisance dogs by keeping them under control along the Solway waterfront.
“Our teams on the ground are seeing many birds that are sick or dying and under significant stress. Anything that can be done to limit further disruptive activities at this time must be implemented urgently.
“This action could help these populations during this period of catastrophic decline caused by the outbreak.”
Meanwhile, three bird flu surveillance zones introduced in eastern Dumfries and Galloway last year were lifted at sites near Annan, Gretna and Moffat.
However, a UK-wide Bird Flu Prevention Zone remains in place.
Chief Veterinary Officer for Scotland, Sheila Voss, said: “This year we are seeing the worst outbreak of avian influenza in the UK with over 80 domestic poultry and captive bird establishments confirming cases and over 500 AI findings in wild birds. registered in GB.
“The lifting of these zones now means that we have no protection or surveillance zones in Scotland. Although this is good news, I want to emphasize that this does not mean that AI has disappeared, in fact, the risk of AI remains unchanged.
“Just one teaspoon of feces from wild birds infected with avian influenza can kill tens of thousands of birds, so it is important that people maintain good practices to protect their birds from AI.
“This includes making sure birds are kept separate from wild birds and their droppings, limiting access to their poultry facilities, and ensuring that all feed and bedding is stored indoors and the house is in good repair to prevent contamination. rodent entry and potentially contaminated rainwater. ”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.