Thursday, November 30, 2023

Avian Influenza Reported in a Hunter Harvested Wild Bird in Fergus County



H5N2 Avian Influenza has been confirmed in a hunter-harvested, mallard duck in Fergus County.  At this time there have been no additional detections of avian influenza in Montana in either wild or domestic birds.


Wild migratory waterfowl are the natural reservoir for avian influenza.  The mallard duck appears to have a similar strain as the 2014/2015 outbreak that affected domestic birds nationwide. Testing of the sample is ongoing at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories.  No human health issues have been reported for this strain and no illness or mortalities in domestic poultry in Montana have been detected.

Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans and the meat from these animals is safe for human consumption; however, it is recommended that people follow proper sanitary precautions when handling birds.  Wear latex or rubber gloves when cleaning birds, washing hands with soapy water after cleaning, clean and disinfect equipment and surfaces that came in contact with the bird, and cook wild birds thoroughly before eating the meat.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends following sanitary handling procedures and cooking poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Waterfowl often don’t show symptoms of this disease, so hunters should always take precautions,” said Jennifer Ramsey, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Wildlife Veterinarian. “However, people should avoid contact with any sick bird.”

The Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) encourages poultry producers, including those with small, backyard flocks to keep domestic birds separate from wild waterfowl and to monitor their birds carefully for any sudden death or signs of illness. 


Key facts about Avian Influenza:

  • Avian influenza (AI) is an infectious viral disease of birds that can cause high mortality rates in domestic flocks
  • Avian influenza viruses rarely cause clinical signs in wild waterfowl, although raptors and wild game birds (pheasants, quail, turkey, grouse) may be more susceptible.
  • The Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) recommends that poultry producers practice good biosecurity including limiting contact between domestic and wild birds, limiting visitor access to domestic poultry. 
  • Domestic poultry owners should take precautions to keep wild birds out of flocks.

If you experience sudden onset of illness or high death loss in domestic poultry, please contact the Montana Department of Livestock (444-2043).

If you find sick or dead wild birds that have died from unknown causes please contact your local FWP Warden, Biologist or Regional office, or call the FWP wildlife veterinarian (994-5671).

Fergus County is in zone 1 of Montana’s Central Flyway which includes the central and north eastern portion of Montana. Duck season in zone 1 closed Jan. 5. Duck season in zone 2 of Montana’s Central Flyway, which is much of the south central part of the state, closes Jan. 17.

Duck season in the Pacific Flyway, which borders Fergus County is open until Jan. 8 and then re-opens Jan. 14 – 18. 


Source:  Montana Department of Agriculture



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