Avian flu may threaten birds and dogs this hunting season
Sep 21, 2022, 4:45 PM | Updated: 4:47 pm
(Bridger Felter, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)
SALT LAKE CITY — Avian influenza is threatening many species of birds across Utah. The Division of Wildlife Resources cautions hunters to be careful in their practice this season with tips to keep them and their hunting dogs safe.
The virus is highly contagious and causes a high mortality among domestic birds like ducks and chickens, and can be rapidly deadly to wild birds like hawks and vultures.
“Hunters should take precautions while out in the field this fall, and if anyone finds a group of five or more dead waterfowl, they should report it to the nearest DWR office and absolutely make sure not to touch the birds or pick them up,” Assistant Wildlife Program Chief Blair Stringham said.
As of Aug. 30, a total of 44 birds and two red foxes have tested positive for avian influenza, affecting Canada geese, owls, hawks, and more throughout more than nine counties.
Hunters of any kind are advised to take caution with these tips:
- do not harvest or handle any animal that appears sick
- avoid direct contact with intestines
- thoroughly clean hands and equipment and disinfect using a 10% chlorine bleach solution
- wear rubber or latex gloves while handling and cleaning birds
- keep your game birds cool, clean, and dry
- thoroughly cook meat before eating (165°f)
- do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling game
- field dress game animals in a well-ventilated area or outdoors
- separate wild birds and domestic poultry
Though the risk for people is low, it’s confirmed that at least one person was infected in Colorado.
Dogs are also susceptible to High pathogenic avian influenza viruses. Even if the risk of infection is also low for dogs, they don’t often show clinical signs or respiratory symptoms. The DWR recommends using the website to track active avian flu cases, and avoid those areas when hunting with a retriever.