At least 27 birds have died since the beginning of December
Symptoms, including paralysis and seizures, baffled experts
Lab tests confirmed cases of West Nile in dead and dying birds
The mystery illness that has killed 27 bald eagles in Utah this month appears to be West Nile Virus, state officials said Tuesday.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said in a statement Tuesday that that laboratory tests done on some of the first birds found indicate they died from West Nile Virus.
Since December 1, officials have found the birds in northern and central Utah. All were either dead or were ill and later died during treatment.
Unknown illness: This undated image provided by the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah shows one of four bald eagles that were brought in with odd symptoms. All later died
The eagles displayed similar symptoms, including head tremors, signs of seizures, weakness in legs and feet and a paralysis of the bird’s wings.
Beyond the 27 that have died, officials said five eagles were being treated at a wildlife rehabilitation center Tuesday. They appeared to be responding well to treatment, officials said.
Utah wildlife officials aren’t sure how the eagles caught the virus, but they suspect the birds contracted it by eating Eared Grebes that were infected with the virus and died recently.
West Nile Virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, usually infects eagles and other birds during warmer months.