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This Week in Fish and Wildlife: Avian flu and other threats to birds in Montana

Posted at 10:37 AM, Dec 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-29 12:37:35-05

It has destroyed poultry flocks across the country and caused health departments to issue warnings and safety precautions. We are talking about bird flu, and as MTN's Chet Layman tells us, Montanans still need to be careful, especially this time of year.

BOZEMAN — Highly pathogenic avian influenza—HPAI or simply bird flu—is still here. It has been an issue for domestic bird flocks and is a problem for migratory birds such as ducks and geese. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wants people to be careful; as the fall migration wraps up, you may find dead birds.

“If you are a homeowner and you find dead birds on your property and if you have to dispose of those birds, make sure you wear gloves and then scoop them into a garbage bag that you can tie up and then dispose of it in your garbage receptacle and make sure you wash your hands thoroughly,” said Morgan Jacobsen, information and education manager for Montana FWP, Region 3.

Many communities here in southwest Montana also have pigeons in their neighborhoods. Jacobsen says there is another disease affecting these birds, and it is also fatal for the infected birds.

“There is another virus that we've seen recently in Montana called pigeon paramyxovirus,” Jacobsen said. “This virus primarily affects doves and pigeons; those are the two main species that can be affected by it, whereas avian influenza has been known to affect a wider variety of birds as well as some mammals.”

Jacobsen says during the fall and spring migrations, FWP receives many calls from people who've found dead birds in their yards. He suggests there is a criterion for when to call and make a report.

“When should I report dead birds to Fish, Wildlife and Parks? Or another agency, and Fish, Wildlife and Parks may be interested in some reports of dead birds, especially if there are five or more dead birds in the same location. You know, that may be a case that we'd be interested in hearing about, and so you can contact your local Fish, Wildlife and Parks office,” said Jacobsen.

Jacobsen says if you are raising domestic birds and you find several dead, call the Montana Department of Livestock, not FWP.