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BRIEFS

West Nile and duck season

October 07, 2003|Joe Robinson

With duck season opening Oct. 18, hunters may soon have more airborne creatures than they can handle, in the form of West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes.

Scientists are concerned that hunters could be at the center of a potential West Nile breakout. Ground zero is Riverside County, where mosquito control experts last week were unable to delay the flooding of hundreds of acres of desert marshes in the Salton Sea area owned by private duck clubs.

The marshes, which are turned into duck magnets when water is pumped from wells, are notorious breeding grounds for Culex tarsalis, the species of mosquito thought best able to transmit West Nile, which has killed more than 100 Americans this year. Mosquito abatement officials had urged that duck season be pushed back to reduce insect breeding.

California has had no human West Nile cases yet, but the virus has shown up in a house sparrow in Riverside and crows in the San Gabriel Valley.

Duck calls stand to be the second-most-heard sound in Riverside's marshes this fall, right after the whoosh of Deet.

-- Joe Robinson

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