NORTHWOODS WILDLIFE RESCUE: What is bird flu and what type of bird gets it? – Enterprise Park Rapids

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is an extremely contagious type A influenza virus.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service lists chickens, turkeys, captive pheasants, quails, waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans) – both domestic and wild -, corvids (ravens, jays, crows) and great blue herons as the species most susceptible to the virus.

The most recent data shows that wild birds from 31 states have tested positive for HPAI so far this season.

The University of Minnesota Raptor Center reported that 16 great horned owls, 13 bald eagles, 7 red-tailed hawks and 1 barred owl tested positive for the virus.

The USDA reports that 2 mallards from Anoka County and 1 great horned owl from Houston County have tested positive for the virus.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Animal Health Council are collaborating to collect and share information regarding HPAI infections in poultry and wild birds in the state.

If you observe an injured bird or a bird that appears sick, do not handle it. Call an approved rehabilitation center or the DNR for advice.

Contributed/Julie Dickie

We get many calls and questions about what to do with sick, injured and dead birds.

MNR is responsible for receiving and processing reports of sick and dead wild birds, if the circumstances or symptoms are consistent with HPAI.

Five or more deaths in the same area and time period are of particular concern.

Some symptoms of HPAI are birds that are flightless, lethargic, not eating, unable to hold their head up, unable to swim or walk in circles.

Birds carrying the virus may show no symptoms.

Dead birds, especially raptors and waterfowl without explanation or obvious signs of injury would be of concern. Birds meeting the testing criteria will be sent to the National Wildlife Health Center or the Minnesota Diagnostic Laboratory.

Up-to-date information on confirmed cases of HPAI can be found on this USGS website:

https://www.usgs.gov/centers/nwhc/science/distribution-highly-pathogenic-avian-influenza-north-america-20212022

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What this means for wildlife rehabilitators This virus has presented serious challenges for wildlife rehabilitators.

The Minnesota Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and several other licensed rehabilitation centers have made the difficult decision to suspend consumption of any susceptible and susceptible species. Centers simply cannot risk infecting other patients in the facility.

The Raptor Center has taken precautions, including remodeling the center to allow for quarantine areas and safe separation of birds.

Birds entering a center should be tested immediately. The bird must then be quarantined for varying periods and tested between two and three times before being allowed into the general population. The cost of each test is around $30 to $40. Since most centers depend on personal funds and donations, this additional cost makes admitting birds very difficult, if not impossible.

Should I dismantle my bird feeders?
There are differing opinions on this. Currently, MNR does not require the removal of bird feeders. Currently, we are not aware of any reports or evidence of infection of wild songbirds (passerines). However, since we are here in the beautiful Northwoods, you should consider taking the feeders down if you want to avoid bear visits.

The chicks are in feed stores. It’s hard to resist the urge to offer one or two small balls of plush to your children or grandchildren.

This creates several difficult outcomes.

Chicks and ducks raised as pets will not survive if released into the wild as juveniles or adults. This year, in particular, we are asking people to refrain from doing so, as these birds are at high risk of contracting the virus and transmitting the virus to other birds.

Every spring, rehabbers receive single chicks and entire families of well-meaning animal lovers who fear they have been abandoned.

Unless injured, it is rare for wild animals to abandon their babies. Sometimes, especially with wood ducks, the family can become separated. With time and opportunity, they will usually come together on their own.

Wood ducks sometimes have one or two stragglers in the box or tree that make the jump after mom has already escorted the rest of the family to the nearest water. Usually, with a little effort, they can be successfully put together.

It is important that waterfowl are not intentionally moved to different lakes or rivers, as this could spread the virus.

If you observe an injured bird or a bird that appears sick, do not handle it.

There is no evidence of transmission of the virus to humans, but it is a zoonotic disease. Call an approved rehabilitation center or the DNR for advice.

Please understand that many centers will not be able to accept the bird into their care. It is as difficult for them as it is for those who find the bird.

If you find a dead bird, wear gloves and place the bird in a plastic bag. Report suspicious deaths to the DNR at 888-646-6367. If they advise you to dispose of the bird, you can bury it, cremate it, or double bag it and put it in the trash or take it to the landfill. It is important to properly locate and dispose of dead birds.

Raptors contract the virus after eating an infected bird. If they bring the carcass back to their nest, the babies will likely be infected as well. This virus is almost always fatal.

The USDA has more information on their website:

https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/what-is-avian-influenza

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Julie Dickie is a state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator in northern Minnesota. His non-profit organization, Northwoods Wildlife Rescue, captures and releases all manner of injured creatures. Julie and her husband, Jeff, are unpaid volunteers.

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