By COLLEEN OTTE
Capital News Service
LANSING — Using satellites to follow dead birds drifting on Lake Michigan may hold the key to locating the source of the elusive botulinum toxin, which causes paralysis and death in birds. To track down where waterbirds might be exposed to the toxin, a recent study developed a model of how loon carcasses drift using an approach similar to that of search-and-rescue operations, said Jennifer Chipault, a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center. The idea stems from previous evidence that loons – the most plentiful victims of avian botulism – feed as deep as 250 feet. That suggests the birds may be contracting the toxin further offshore than originally thought. The impact of the disease can be massive.