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Waterfowl no longer accepted for rehab due to avian flu risk

Many wildlife rehabilitators are currently not accepting waterfowl due to the spread of avian flu in wild birds. Because they can carry the virus without showing symptoms, allowing them into rehabilitation facilities can put all the birds at the facility at risk, officials warn.

Goslings, ducklings, and adult waterfowl can all carry the virus. If people find healthy ducklings or goslings without a parent nearby, they’re asked to leave them alone and allow the parents to find them. If not, they can be released at the nearest waterway. Injured ducks and geese may be brought to an ODFW office for euthanasia. Please call ahead before bringing in an injured duck or goose.

Don’t handle sick or dead wild birds, but report the incident directly to a local ODFW office or the Wildlife Health lab at 866-968-2600 or email at [email protected]. ODFW staff will be conducting surveillance and collecting /testing sick and dead wild birds to monitor for the presence of the disease.

“The risk of avian flu spreading to other birds in the wildlife rehab clinic is too high,” said Portland Audubon Wildlife Care Center manager Stephanie Herman. “We cannot risk the health of other wildlife in our care centers. We are hoping this situation is temporary and normal rehabilitation operations will return by mid-summer. Our goal is to serve all native wild animals in need of help so this is a very sad and difficult situation.”

This is the time of year when goslings, ducklings, and other young birds are commonly picked up and brought into rehab centers. Well-intentioned people mistakenly think these young birds are orphaned because they may be temporarily separated from their parents.

This year more than ever, it is important to leave wild birds in the wild to give them the best chance for survival. If people see young ducks or geese, please keep pets under tight control. Not feeding waterfowl is also especially important during this time. In addition to commonly causing nutritional issues, feeding congregates animals results in overcrowding and increased risk of disease spread.

In Oregon, avian flu was first detected in wild birds in Canada goose goslings at Alton Baker Park in Eugene and it was also found in several red-tailed hawks in May.

The virus currently circulating in Oregon and other parts of the world is very contagious among birds and can sicken and even kill many bird species, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Infected birds can shed avian influenza A viruses in their saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. Susceptible birds become infected when they contact the virus after it is shed by infected birds.

Wild birds that typically carry the virus include waterbirds (such as ducks, geese, swans, gulls, and terns), shorebirds (such as sandpipers), and pelicans and cormorants. Dabbling ducks (such as mallards, pintails, and wigeons) serve as reservoir hosts for avian influenza A viruses although it often does not cause disease in these species.

While very contagious and deadly for some birds, the risk to human health is low according to the CDC.


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