A preliminary Alberta Environment and Parks investigation into the recent deaths of dozens of birds in Elliston Park suggests the ducks likely died as a result of an isolated natural phenomenon.

Nearly 50 dead ducks were spotted in the frozen storm water retention pond near the intersection of 17 Avenue and 68 Street Southeast on Tuesday by Wayne Clarke during his daily walk in the park with his dog. Clarke says he started noticing dead birds in Elliston Park more than a week ago and the death toll grew as the days progressed.

The City of Calgary sent crews to the park on Wednesday to observe the area.   

Experts suspect the recent cold snap created a scarcity in available water. “We’ve lost a few of our open water areas and that probably resulted in some overcrowding and that can lead, perhaps, to starvation, potentially disease,” explained Brett Boukall, a senior wildlife biologist for the Bow-Crow district with Alberta Environment and Parks. “We had a little bit of a warming and freezing trend this past week. Looking at some of the photographs, there was some potential that some of those ducks might have even frozen in the ice.”

The senior wildlife biologist says avian cholera may be responsible for the deaths as the disease is often present when overcrowding occurs and has been previously observed in Calgary.

Boukall says Alberta Environment and Parks was not notified of the dead ducks in Elliston Park until Wednesday morning and, as of Wednesday afternoon, the agency has yet to collect a specimen due to the unsafe ice conditions. “Once we receive that specimen we’re going to be taking it to the lab and trying to get results.”

The duck carcasses have attracted predators to the park that have begun to feast on the remains of the birds.

With files from CTV's Kathy Le