Bird flu expected to kill hundreds of snow geese in Saskatchewan | CBC News:

Jane Gibson is a self-proclaimed bird who is always looking forward to seeing snow geese in the spring.

But this year, as the birds passed by his property near Grand Cooley, about 20 miles (20 km) west of Regina, he noticed that something was wrong.

“I’ve never seen so many dead birds,” said Gibson, who has lived in the area for about 15 years.

This is not a separate issue. In Saskatchewan, snow geese across the country have been hit hard by bird flu, which is killing them.

Dead snow geese have been found along the TransCanada Highway, located between Regina’s Mousse Jaws. (Fiona Odlum, CBC News)

A highly contagious bird flu has plagued migratory birds in Canada since early December, said Iga Stasiak, a wildlife health specialist with the Saskatchewan government.

“This is the first outbreak in Saskatchewan since 2017,” Stasiak said, adding that this type of bird flu, H5N1, has been very aggressive. “It has caused more significant mortality. We have seen a much wider impact on the species than on previous strains.”

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“Since the end of March, the state has received more than 300 reports of sick birds or deaths,” he said, adding that there were 100 possible positive cases awaiting confirmation.

Birds usually die within a week of being infected. “Avian influenza is generally associated with the respiratory virus, but this strain” affects many organ systems, including the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and nervous system, including the brain, “Stasiak said. They observed neurological symptoms in the birds, including convulsions.

The public is asked to report any visibility of sick or dead birds. (Richard Agecoutay, CBC News)

Most of the cases are concentrated in the south-central part of the state, and most of the infected birds have been found in communities such as Grand Cool, across TransCanada, Regina to the jaws of Mousse.

“In that region, birds stop along their migratory routes, and here you see very large flocks of birds.” Some sick birds have been reported as far as Niapui, 360 km north of Regina, Stasiak said.

Snow geese migrate annually from Texas; they “cross the southern United States and then fly to the Arctic for their nests,” which spread the infection widely.

Stasiak said most of the snow geese have now reached the north, and people are probably seeing dead birds as the snow melts.

That’s when Gibson really started noticing the problem.

He said that the migration season started just like in other years. “They settled on the pitch, everything seemed to be fine. And then when they left, և the snow started to melt, it became clear that there are those who did not make it, I would say at least a dozen, if not more. ”

Bird fields

At first he thought the deaths were caused by collisions during the flight, but after some research he found out that they most likely died of bird flu.

“I was heartbroken to see them suffer so much from bird flu,” Gibson said.

His property was not the only one where the dead birds were stuck in the fields. It was clear that the problem was widespread in the community.

Jen Gibson said she was heartbroken to see so many birds killed by bird flu. (Fiona Odlum, CBC News)

“You can see them from the highway,” he said. “You can see them near Grand Cooley. And then, you know, when they left, you could see there were some who didn’t make it. “

Stasiak said bird flu was first found on the East Coast; it is thought to have spread across the Atlantic to the Midwestern states and then to the north during spring migration. This means a widespread infection in the prairies, from the west to British Columbia.

“We are seeing similar reports of deaths across the country,” he said.

There have been reports of bird flu spreading to other species. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

“Snow geese are abundant,” he said. “It still seems that a relatively small part of the population has been affected,” Stasiak said.

Distribution to other species

Initially, Stasiak’s reports showed that the virus only affected snow geese և Ross geese, but it spread to other species.

“We also get a lot of information about predatory species. So the hawks, the eagles, the big horned owls, the birds of prey, the crows, the crows, the crows. ” He suspects that these birds are probably feeding on the carcasses of infected waterfowl.

While there have been no reports of garbage mammals being infected in Saskatchewan, Stasiak urged property owners to remove all dead birds that could be consumed by pets.

He advised to wear a mask, gloves, “use a plastic bag to take the bird, make a double bag, remove it.”

One dead bird can go to the garbage, but if there is more, it must go to an approved landfill, Stasiak said.

But as a rule, Stasiak advised to leave the birds where they are, to allow them to decay naturally.

Follow up on sick birds

Stasiak said they trust members of the public to report any birds that exhibit unusual behavior or appear ill. Whether or not they can help infected birds, the department wants to know where they are, as “it will be vital to understand the size of the virus and its impact.”

They also try to find out “if there are birds that are carriers or do not show any clinical symptoms.”

Detection of sick և dead birds can be done through the regional survey line Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative:Wildlife Health Tracker app or by calling the Wildlife Emergency Hotline at 1-800-567-2033.

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