IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - Avian influenza could impact Idaho waterfowl hunters yet again this fall, with the virus now discovered across much of the state.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists are already seeing an increase in reports of avian mortality, which they believe to be the result of high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
“We are uncertain of the HPAI strain type and virulence that may impact our wildlife this fall, but we do anticipate an increase in cases over the next few months as the fall waterfowl migration progresses,” Fish and Game Wildlife Veterinarian Nicole Walrath said. “These birds have been coming in their summer breeding grounds and will be migrating back through Idaho this fall.”
The AI strain that swept across Idaho earlier this year was extremely deadly, killing birds quickly and with notable clinical signs of neurologic impairment.
"Birds contract this and they suffer and die from it fairly quickly within about 48 hours of them contracting the disease. So if you're out hunting and you see a healthy bird flying overhead, very unlikely that it has avian influenza. Possible, but unlikely," Fish and Game Communications Director James Brower said. "But if you see a bird that is showing odd behavior and symptoms swimming in circles or coming too close or maybe an inability to fly, then it is very possible that that does have some disease which could be avian Influenza."
During this year’s spring waterfowl migration season, Idaho had a large number of cases of AI, primarily impacting waterfowl and birds of prey. As the summer went on, the number of cases decreased but the virus remained persistent (including detections in skunks).
It is also important for bird hunters and falconers to know the risks associated with AI. Dog owners should be aware of the possible risks of hunting dogs getting AI from exposure to infected birds, especially dead waterfowl.
"If you see any sort of a large group of birds that have died, please give us a call and let us know. We can do testing to verify whether it was avian influenza or it could even perhaps be some other disease," Brower said.
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