Poultry Owners and Hunters Be Alert!

The fall migration season is here and with it comes the threat of Avian Influenza. 2023 has been a relatively quiet year for positive case in North Dakota but that doesn’t mean we need to lower our guard.  A backyard poultry flock in Williams County tested positive last week.

Here is a news release from NDSU Extension with more information.


Protect poultry flocks from HPAI this fall

NDSU Extension offers biosecurity recommendations for protecting poultry flocks from highly pathogenic avian influenza.

With the continued presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds in North Dakota, North Dakota State University Extension specialists continue to encourage biosecurity practices for bird owners of all sizes and around wild birds. North Dakota has had no positive domestic cases since April. However, with positive cases occurring currently in Canada, the risk of transmission will increase as fall migration continues.

Hunters participating in fall season should be aware of the risk of HPAI in wildlife and use measures to prevent transmission to domestic poultry flocks. Sick wildlife will display neurological symptoms. Hunters of wild birds are more likely to have increased exposure to the virus, which may increase risk of infection,” says Dr. Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist. “Hunters should dress game birds in the field when possible and practice good biosecurity to prevent any potential disease spread.

“Dogs are not at high risk to contract the virus,” says Dr. Stokka. “However, there have been documented cases of dogs transmitting HPAI to domestic flocks. If your dog has interacted with wildlife, take measures to keep them away from poultry.”

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public health risk from the current HPAI outbreak is low,” says Miranda Meehan, NDSU Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. “People should not handle dead wild birds and also should avoid transporting sick or dead birds.”

“If you hunt and have domestic poultry and birds, do not wear hunting clothes while you are in with your birds,” says Meehan. “Infected birds shed bird flu viruses in their saliva, mucous and feces.”

One of the first clinical signs for domestic birds is sudden, unexplained death. Most HPAI cases are reporting a decline in water consumption up to 72 hours prior to the unexplained death. Decreased egg production and depression in layers may be another sign that birds are not feeling well. Purple or dry combs, being quieter than normal, frequent laying down and swelling around eyes are other symptoms birds may experience. Chickens and turkeys are most susceptible to HPAI. Waterfowl such as geese and ducks carry the virus and spread it to other birds.

“The best defense against HPAI is having a biosecurity plan in place,” says Mary Keena, NDSU Extension livestock environmental management specialist. “A biosecurity plan is critical in protecting your birds. It is your job as a flock owner to create a line of separation between your clean flock and the potential unclean issues that wildlife or visitors may bring.”

To reduce transmission between wild and domestic birds:

  • Non-lethal methods to deter wild birds are available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s wildlife damage webpage: https://bit.ly/deter-wild-birds.
  • Reduce the attractiveness for wild birds to stop at your place by cleaning up litter and spilled feed around your domestic poultry housing.
  • If you come in contact with or handle wild birds, change into clean clothes, wash your hands and disinfect your footwear prior to contact with domestic birds.
  • Report sick or deceased wild birds.
  • In the event you need to handle or dispose of carcasses to reduce potential interactions, be sure to follow the appropriate procedures: ndsu.ag/hpai.

To reduce transmission between domestic flocks:

  • Keep your distance. Restrict access to your property and your birds. Allow contact from people who care for your birds but minimize visitors.
  • Do not haul disease home. If you have been near other poultry or poultry owners, such as at feed stores, clean and disinfect car and truck tires. New birds should be kept separate from your flock for at least 30 days.
  • Do not share lawn and garden equipment, tools or poultry supplies with your neighbor or other poultry owners, as these items can transmit disease.

Avian influenza surveillance and testing in wild birds is being done by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Report sick and dead wildlife at https://bit.ly/mortality-report. Direct wild bird avian influenza questions to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department at 701-204-2161.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department suggests the following practices to reduce risk of infection:

  • Do not handle game that is found dead or appears to be sick.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game, and avoid contamination of your eyes, mouth, nose, or any open cuts or sores with blood or other fluids from game that you are cleaning.
  • Wash hands, cleaning utensils and other surfaces with soap and hot water immediately after cleaning game.

“There is no evidence that anyone has contracted the virus from eating a fully cooked bird, either domestic or wild,” says Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor of health, nutrition and exercise sciences. “It is always a safe practice to fully cook wild game to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of whether there is a threat of HPAI.”

More information about wild birds is available from: