Devizes Town Council are continuing to urge caution around the Crammer after five dead birds were disposed of.

The birds were swans and geese that died with symptoms of avian flu before Christmas, at a rate of one a day, leading to fears of an outbreak.

These birds were due to be collected and tested by DEFRA because five or more had died, meeting the requirements for the department to become involved. The town council had been storing them for DEFRA to collect.

But, while DEFRA guidance is that dead birds will be collected within four days if needed for testing, no collection was arranged over the Christmas period, forcing the town council to dispose of the decaying birds.

Town Clerk Simon Fisher said: “DEFRA indicated they would come and collect the birds, but the problem was the report was submitted two days before Christmas.

“The birds were starting to rot and were becoming unpleasant so we had to double bag them and dispose of them appropriately.”

This has left the council with no confirmation of the birds’ cause of death. They are therefore urging people to continue exercising caution in the area and to not feed the birds.

Mr Fisher added: “The circumstances in which they died were suspicious and they were exhibiting avian flu symptoms.

“We have taken a risk-based approach and given the symptoms we have asked people not to feed the birds. Until we are satisfied we would prefer it if the council fed the birds.

“Our advice is to not feed the birds because we are still concerned and are waiting for an update from DEFRA.”

While no birds have died on the Crammer since before Christmas, the council confirmed that another swan had died on Thursday, January 5 at the nearby canal.

Mr Fisher has assured people that the birds will not starve if members of the public do not feed them and the council are currently liaising with the Wetland Trust about the best way to feed them without compromising safety.

He added: “We do understand the desire to ensure the birds are fed and are seeking advice from the Wetland Trust on the best way to feed the birds whilst minimising the risk of potentially spreading disease. We are looking to feed the birds ourselves as part of a controlled programme.”

This would involve setting an agreed feed to ensure that the birds are not over or underfed.