LIHUE — When Eben Gering and his colleagues from Michigan State University came back to study the chickens of Kauai, they didn’t expect to be bagging dead birds.
But that’s exactly what they were doing Friday afternoon at the parking lot at Vidinha Stadium.
“There are four dead chicks over there and four dead adults over there,” said Gering, a research associate at MSU. “There’s one there, but it’s too decomposed.”
Gering said he is trying to get the roughly 15 dead birds over to Hawaii State Department of Agriculture for testing.
“I’m going to bag these birds, put them in a freezer and send them off,” he said.
Gering could only speculate about how the birds died, but he thought maybe a chicken disease was going around.
The dead chickens at Vidinha Stadium will be the fourth batch of birds from Kauai sent to USDA for testing in the past few weeks, said Jason Moniz, veterinary program manager for USDA animal disease control branch.
The first set in August was from Kapaa and turned out to be botulism, he said. The second set was found dead Sept. 10 in Lihue and was reported in The Garden Island. The exact cause of death has not been determined, but they are testing for botulism, Moniz said.
The third set on Sept. 11 was from Kekaha and tests are still being conducted to determine the cause of death.
None have been infectious, Moniz said. Avian flu has been ruled out for all current sets and the stadium birds will be tested for avian flu upon arrival, he said.
The Michigan State University research group will send birds Monday morning along with blood samples from sick live birds that have been hanging around near the dead ones, Moniz said.
Several decomposed chickens were strewn in the grass near the parking lot by soccer fields on Friday.
Jason Vercelli, marine biologist for the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife, also said he would connect with the USDA to determine cause of death.
Some tourists and locals weighed in on the deaths of the birds that were just a few feet from the farmer’s market in the parking lot at Vidinha Stadium.
“Etang” Tiare, a market vendor, said she thinks the birds were shot, but she doesn’t know for sure.
She said she saw people moving them out of the parking lot ahead of Friday’s farmer’s market.
“One of the father’s of the vendors moved them,” she said. “So they would be out of sight.”
A resident who uses the stadium but declined to use their name to lunch was also curious about the phenomena.
“I come here to eat lunch daily,” the user said. “I keep wondering if someone is poisoning them?”
Texas native Kelly Smith, 28, was carousing through the stalls at the market before catching her flight back home when she heard about the dead birds.
“It’s sad,” she said. “It’s a huge part of Kauai culture. It’s sad that they’re dead.”