City officials moved quickly in Chilliwack after reports of dead seagulls at the Bailey landfill.

City officials moved quickly in Chilliwack after reports of dead seagulls at the Bailey landfill.

UPDATED Bailey Landfill in Chilliwack site of strange seagull deaths

It was first thought to be birds who ate decomposing garbage but now it looks like canine attack is to blame, say officials.

The Bailey Sanitary Landfill in Chilliwack was shut down for part of Thursday as officials investigated reports of dead and dying seagulls.

It was first thought to be birds who ate decomposing garbage but now city officials say it looks more like canine attack of some sort is to blame.

About 20 dead seagulls were reported Thursday morning at the landfill, officials confirmed.

Some of the bird corpses were sent to a Ministry of Agriculture laboratory to be autopsied, and results are surprising.

Many had wounds, and those injuries were ultimately found to be the cause of death, according to the preliminary autopsy reports shared with city staff.

Poisons or toxins from the garbage were not found to be causal factors. It is believed that canine attack or predation by either dogs, coyotes or foxes, possibly working in packs, were the cause.

The phenomenon of bird mortalities at the landfill is not unheard of, but city staff said it had not been seen in Chilliwack for a long time. The landfill is now in the midst of a $6 million expansion and part of that process uncovered an older section of waste this week.But that is not thought to be a key factor in the bird deaths either.

The site was shut down as a precaution on Thursday, and an occupational hygienist team from BCIT was dispatched to assess the air quality at the Chilliwack landfill. They were the individuals spotted at the site in white safety gear.

A range of government agencies were contacted and informed of the bird die-off incident from Fraser Health and Ministry of Environment, to Worksafe BC and more.

The air quality at the site was also tested, and confirmed to be safe, posing no health risks for workers or area residents, said staff.

The landfill was reopened by later that afternoon after a section at the base of the west cell was covered over once more to limit exposure, until it is known exactly what they’re dealing with.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno