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Avian flu killed at least 25 wild bird species in 55 Minnesota counties

Reports have slowed to a trickle as worst seems to have passed.

pelican
American white pelicans were among 25 species of wild birds confirmed to die from highly pathogenic avian influenza this spring in 55 Minnesota counties.
Steve Kuchera / 2019 file / Duluth News Tribune
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The spring outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza that hit wild birds hard across the U.S. killed at least 275 birds from 25 different species in 55 counties across Minnesota.

That’s the update this week from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources where wildlife health experts say the outbreak appears to be nearly over.

Bird experts had already given the all-clear for people to resume feeding songbirds now that the disease appears to have calmed down as the spring migration ends. Bird experts had said songbirds were always at low risk to catch the disease.

Across the nation, thousands of wild birds have died from the disease that also struck commercial and backyard poultry farms, forcing millions of birds to be destroyed. The disease also was confirmed in foxes in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Minnesota DNR officials said nearly 700 birds have been tested in the state so far, but that they almost certainly haven’t found all cases of the disease within the state. It may never be clear how hard the disease hit vulnerable populations of birds or species of birds harder to find.

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“We have no solid number of wild birds affected, or a way to scale this outbreak to a population level at this point,’’ Michelle Carstensen, the Minnesota DNR’s wildlife health program leader, told the News Tribune.

In Minnesota, the disease hit waterfowl and the raptors that eat waterfowl especially hard. Species impacted include crows, pelicans, bald eagles, barred owls, broad-winged hawks, Canada geese, common goldeneyes, loon, ravens, Cooper’s hawks, dark-eyed juncos, great-horned owls, hooded mergansers, mallards, northern harriers, red-shouldered hawks, red-tailed hawks, Ross’s geese, rough-legged hawks, snow geese, trumpeter swans, turkey vultures, white-fronted geese and wood ducks.

The DNR said the disease killed birds in 55 counties, including St. Louis, Carlton, Itasca, Cass, Aitkin, Pine, Anoka, Blue Earth, Brown, Carver, Chippewa, Chisago, Clay, Crow Wing, Dakota, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Grant, Hennepin, Houston, Hubbard, Isanti, Kandiyohi, Le Sueur, Lyon, Mahnomen, Martin, McLeod, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmsted, Polk, Pope, Ramsey, Red Lake, Rice, Roseau, Scott, Sherburne, Stearns, Steele, Stevens, Todd, Wabasha, Wadena, Washington, Watonwan, Wilkin, Winona and Wright.

Only one human case of bird flu has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. during this outbreak. The case affected a commercial poultry industry worker in Colorado who recovered fully.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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