Sam Fulkerson and some buddies had finished the morning hunt on Sunday (Jan. 31), and were headed to scout out some new fields for an evening goose hunt near Gueydan when they saw something strange.

"We saw some geese on the road, and we stopped and sent the dog after one of them," said Fulkerson, known on as "Uncle Bud a.k.a. Sam Fulkerson. "It just sat there."

That's when the hunters noticed there were geese in the roadside ditch.

"I went after one of them, and it just sat there," Fulkerson said.

The crew began collecting the lethargic geese, and then realized there were no wounds from being shot.

"After grabbing 10 or 15 of them, we realized they were sick," Fulkerson said.

The geese, he said, were really skinny and had a vicious smell.

In the nearby field were hundreds of other geese, including snows, blues and specks, acting lethargic and wandering away from the massive concentration of birds.

"If there weren't 200,000 geese going down in the field, there weren't any," Fulkerson said. "The bald eagles were having a hell of a day, I'll tell you that."

The group of hunters collected 55 sickly geese, all snows and blues.

That's when they decided they needed to report the incident, and called a couple of friends with contacts within the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Larry Reynolds with LDWF said today that one of the biologists in Vermilion Parish had received the report, and that she was set to collect five of the sickly geese to have tested.

Even without those results, Reynolds said he suspected avian cholera or alflatoxicosix, a bacteria associated with moldy grain that can sicken and even kill birds.

"The fact that (Fulkerson) found them skinny and stinking tells me it's a chronic problem," he explained. "Avian flu kills the birds in about three to four days.

"I'd almost bet it will turn out to be avian cholera."

However, testing for avian influenza will be conducted in accordance with standard operating procedure when more than 10 birds are involved.

This was the second reported incident of which Reynolds was aware, with the other occurring about a week ago in the Bunkie/Grand Cote area and affecting 32 snows and blues.

"It happens almost every year, it's almost always snow geese, and it almost always happens this time of year," Reynolds said.

However, he later informed that an investigation was under way into the cause of a kill that claimed about 100 coots near Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge.

He said the die-offs are usually worse during dry years, when "we can't disperse birds from infected areas."