HomeOutdoorsNewsHundreds of Waterfowl Found Dead in Suspected Bird Flu Outbreak in Illinois

Hundreds of Waterfowl Found Dead in Suspected Bird Flu Outbreak in Illinois

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by Bernd Wüstneck/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Over 300 hundred waterfowl were reported dead in southern Illinois, as the birds were found across popular public hunting sites in the state. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) announced in a release that these birds, primarily snow geese, are believed to have died from bird flu. Specifically, they’ve died from highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI.

The news comes during the deadliest outbreak of HPAI on record in the United States.

“Deceased wild birds have been found at Baldwin Lake, Pyramid State Recreation Area, Rend Lake, and Carlyle Lake in recent days,” reports the IDNR. “IDNR will continue to monitor for ongoing outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza during the fall bird migration.”

The agency implores anyone who witnesses a group of 20 or more deceased birds in one location to file a report. The report will be reviewed with an IDNR district biologist.

Many bird flu outbreaks in the past have been spread by domestic fowl. However, this bout of avian flu is being spread by wild waterfowl moving through the Central and Mississippi flyways. At the moment, the outbreak continues wreaking catastrophic losses in these populations. They report 52.7 million birds died from this strain since February. However, the majority of these birds were domestic and had been culled from commercial flocks, NPR reports.

The IDNR made its recent announcement on Monday November 28th. However, the very next day, officials with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department discovered 77 dead mallards at the Ocean Lake Wildlife Habitat Management Area, in Fremont County, Wyoming.

Human Risk of Contracting Bird Flu Remains Low

They believe these birds succumbed to HPAI as well. The WDFD is currently testing some of the mallard carcasses for the disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of humans contracting HPAI is low. However, the IDNR encourages waterfowl hunters to take precautions by thoroughly cooking game meat. They say all meat should possess an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit when cooked.

“Hunters also should avoid handling sick or dead waterfowl found in the field,” the IDNR press release states. “They should not allow dogs or other pets to consume waterfowl that died from unknown causes. Rubber gloves and a mask should be worn when disposing of any deceased wild birds.”

They went on to say that dead carcasses “should be double-bagged in sealed plastic bags.” They also said that the bags can be buried away from scavengers.

“The bags can be buried away from scavengers or placed in the garbage if approved by the local waste service provider,” they wrote.

Bird flu strains are divided into two types according to their pathogenicity: high pathogenicity (HP) or low pathogenicity (LP). The most well-known HPAI strain, H5N1, was first isolated from a farmed goose.

This incident occurred in Guangdong Province, China back in 1996. It also has low pathogenic strains found in North America.

Companion birds like parrots and finches in captivity normally don’t contract the virus. There hasn’t been a report of a companion bird with avian influenza since 2003.