Avian influenza, wild birds, hunting, and bird feeders
A highly pathogenic form of avian influenza (bird flu), also known as H5N1, is killing both wild birds and domestic poultry in southeast Asia. Thankfully, this type of bird flu has not been found in any birds in North America, including wild birds. While some people in southeast Asia have developed avian influenza after close contact with domestic poultry, there are no known cases of humans contracting avian flu from contact with wild birds anywhere in the world.
Given the latest information, there is there is no reason for Minnesota hunters to be overly concerned about avian influenza when handling their game birds. Basic hygiene, primarily hand-washing and use of latex gloves when handling any wild animals or carcasses is always recommended, and game birds should be cooked thoroughly (165F) to kill disease organisms and parasites that might be present.
Similarly, backyard bird feeding is not currently a concern because avian influenza virus is found primarily in ducks and shorebirds, not in the birds typically seen in your backyard (cardinals, chickadees, finches). However, routine care and cleaning of bird feeders and bird baths are recommended for preventing the spread of other diseases among wild birds.
Handling Wild Bird Carcasses
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is closely monitoring the global avian influenza situation in wild birds. DNR routinely investigates reports of game bird die-offs in the wild and determines a cause of death whenever possible. Migratory birds often die of common diseases such as avian botulism or avian cholera. In addition to this ongoing monitoring of waterfowl disease, DNR is working in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine future needs for monitoring of migratory wild birds for signs of highly pathogenic avian influenza. Additionally, DNR is collaborating in Minnesota with the Board of Animal Health, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, and the University of Minnesota to ensure we are prepared for future monitoring and response needs regarding highly pathogenic avian influenza.