Three Montana grizzly bears just lately examined constructive for extremely pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) or chicken flu, in accordance with a press launch issued yesterday by Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (FWP). All three of the bears had been euthanized by FWP officers after exhibiting superior neurological signs attribute of HPAI. The mixed circumstances mark the primary time that chicken flu has ever been detected in Montana grizzly bear populations.

The bears had been discovered close to three separate communities: Augusta, which sits within the northwestern a part of the state alongside the Rocky Mountain entrance; Dupuyer, which is 60 miles north of Augusta; and Kalispell, which is southwest of Glacier Nationwide Park. In accordance with FWP wildlife veterinarian Jennifer Ramsey, the animals had been euthanized within the fall of 2022.

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“These bears had very clear neurologic signs,” Ramsey instructed Subject & Stream. “My assumption is that both they had been reported by a landowner or a member of the general public, after which a bear specialist responded and realized what sort of situation they had been in and finally ended up having to euthanize them.”

HPAI is attributable to a respiratory virus that assaults the mind. It’s way more widespread in birds, notably wild waterfowl as they unfold the illness quickly through flyway migration patterns. Whereas the three bears euthanized by FWP final fall had been the primary bears with chicken flu on report within the Massive Sky State, they’re not the primary bears in North America to contract the extremely contagious and lethal illness. In December 2022, a hunter in Kodiak, Alaska, occurred upon the carcass of a brown bear cub that died of HPAI signs. And a black bear cub was euthanized by the Alaska Division of Recreation and Fish after it contracted the illness contained in the Glacier Bay Nationwide Park and Protect again in Might 2022.

The newest pressure of chicken flu is named H5N1. In accordance with NPR, it first confirmed up in america in January 2022 in a hunter-harvested widgeon in South Carolina. That kicked off the worst outbreak to ever hit the North American continent. Untold numbers of untamed birds have died, and tens of millions of home birds have been proactively culled in try to forestall additional unfold. All instructed, nicely over 50 million birds have died because the outbreak started, in accordance with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC).

“It looks as if it has peaked right here in Montana,” Ramsey stated. “The wild chicken mortality is actually excessive proper now. There are plenty of birds which have died, and the carcasses are out on the panorama. These bears are simply discovering them and consuming them—and possibly getting a very excessive dose of the virus.”

Ramsey stated that FWP initially examined the euthanized bears for rabies and a handful of different illnesses know to trigger neurological signs. “It took us a short while to get the postive HPAI outcomes as a result of it wasn’t the very first thing we examined for,” she stated. “Now that it’s on our radar, we’re testing bears that come in additional routinely.”

As a result of the virus that causes chicken flu thrives in chilly, moist situations, outbreaks are inclined to coincide with waterfowl looking seasons, which run all through the late fall and winter in most U.S. states. Ramsey stated that it’s vital that waterfowlers in Montana and throughout the nation stay cognizant of the illness’s prevalance and take precautions towards potential infections.

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“In speaking with public well being authorities, they really feel like, no less than for now, this pressure shouldn’t be actually nice at infecting individuals. However viruses can change,” she stated. “For this virus, the largest danger of getting uncovered comes while you’re cleansing the carcass. We suggest that people do their finest to attenuate publicity. Keep away from birds which are sick or that you just discover useless. If you happen to’re dealing with birds, put on disposable gloves. When cleansing birds, do it outdoor the place there’s good air flow. Maintain your canine from contacting any of these sick or useless birds or consuming them, and cook dinner your meat completely to an inner temperature of 165 levels Fahrenheit.”

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