MORE than 60 waterbirds living at a popular green space have died after a devastating disease raging across the region hit the borough.
RSPCA officers found 52 birds including swans, geese and ducks dead at Firs Park in Leigh from avian botulism, which has claimed the lives of more than 180 animals across the North West.
A further 16 birds had to be put to sleep after contracting the disease, while two fish at the popular Firs Lane angling location have also died.
The RSPCA has stressed that humans cannot catch avian botulism through coming into contact with infected birds, but said dogs being walked near water should be kept on a lead at all times.
RSPCA deputy chief inspector Ben Strangwood said: “Bird populations at some of the locations are being devastated and these are really horrible incidents for officers to deal with as they just want to save the birds.
“We are trying to rescue as many sick birds as possible, but we have to concentrate our resources on helping animals that still have a chance so where there are dead birds we’re urging people to contact their local authority to get those removed straight away. We are working with local authorities and are grateful for their help.”
Residents who discover sick birds are asked to contact the authorities quickly to prevent toxins building up in the environment and the disease spreading further.
Private lake owners, meanwhile, have been told to ensure dead birds are disposed of promptly, water levels are topped up and circulation is increased to improve the amount of oxygen in the water.
Dead waterbirds have also been discovered over the weekend at lakes and parks in Manchester, Liverpool and Staffordshire, with more animals expected to be discovered with avian botulism as the current period of warm weather continues.
Only one swan has so far been able to receive treatment for the disease and is being cared for at the RSPCA Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Cheshire.
Anyone who sees sick or injured waterbirds and suspects they may have avian botulism should ring the RSPCA immediately on 0300 1234 999.