Credit Minnesota DNR
Waterfowl are the natural reservoir for avian flu viruses, and many species can carry HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) without any obvious ill effects. Other birds species – particularly poultry, but also many perching or song birds – are more likely to fall ill or die from the infection.
Since avian flu is primarily a gastrointestinal infection in birds, the virus is spread from bird to bird through virus laden feces, which can remain viable in the environment (i.e. pond water) for days under the right conditions.
Although not the worst hit state, Minnesota saw 108 farms in 23 counties infected with HPAI H5 last spring, resulting in the loss of almost 10 million birds. Despite this carnage, only two wild birds have been detected in the state carrying HPAI H5, leaving a lot of unanswered questions regarding the spread of the virus.
Hoping to answer some of these questions, the DNR is asking duck hunters to allow testing of their game over the next couple of weeks, in hopes of getting some idea of the prevalence of the virus in migratory birds returning this fall.
(Released September 25, 2015)
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources field testing staff will offer voluntary testing to waterfowl hunters in seven western and central Minnesota counties when the waterfowl season opens this weekend. No cases of avian influenza have been detected in Minnesota ducks or geese since the outbreak of the flu in the state in March, and the Department of Health assures hunters that there are no food safety concerns with avian influenza.
The DNR will have field testing stations in Kandiyohi, Meeker, Morrison, Pope, Stearns, Swift and Todd counties. Staff in these areas will solicit hunters to volunteer their birds for sampling, which involves taking a quick swab from each bird. Since there are no food safety concerns even with a positive test, hunters can immediately take home their birds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking whole duck or goose to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
“These efforts will help us determine the prevalence of avian influenza in ducks,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “The information learned will be widely shared with wildlife management and agriculture agencies and organizations.”
Crews will be stationed at:
- Lake Osakis.
- Middle Fork Crow River, north of New London.
- Mud Lake state water access site, just west of the Burbank Wildlife Management Area (WMA) near the intersection of county roads 128 and 33.
- Dietrich Lange WMA at the Lake Calhoun public access.
- Yarmon WMA.
- Rice-Skunk WMA.
- Big Rice Lake public boat access.
- Kobliska WMA boat access on Long Lake.
- Quistorff WMA.
- Other hunting areas around Spicer, Pennock, Sunberg, Greenwald and Lake Lillian.
The voluntary testing, which is designed to sample 800 birds during the first two weeks of the season, is a joint effort of the DNR, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and the U.S. Geological Survey.
DNR staff successfully conducted similar surveillance from 2006-2010 and Cornicelli said hunter participation is essential for this effort to be successful.
The sampling of harvested birds this fall will supplement information collected on wild birds since the outbreak began last winter. The DNR has:
- Collected more than 3,000 fecal samples from a variety of waterfowl species.
- Sampled more than 600 Canada geese as part of the annual goose banding project.
- Sampled more than 100 dead birds that were reported to the DNR.
- Sampled nearly 200 ducks as part of the summer duck banding project.
Since the outbreak of the flu in Minnesota in March, the DNR has only found two positive cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Minnesota wildlife – a Cooper’s hawk from Yellow Medicine County and a black-capped chickadee from Ramsey County.
Data collected during testing may be informative for the poultry industry as it develops biosecurity plans. This fall’s testing is continued surveillance for the virus and not part of research authorized by avian influenza relief legislation passed earlier this year. No demographic or other identifying information will be gathered from participating hunters.
For more information, visit the DNR avian flu Web page.