The BC SPCA is urging the public to take down their bird feeders, as avian influenza continues to spread rapidly through wild bird populations.
Along with well-reported outbreaks in both small and commercial poultry flocks, the SPCA says the virus has been confirmed in wild birds in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Northern regions of B.C.
The virus can be deadly to birds, and the organization warned it puts birds including great horned owls, bald eagles, great blue herons, ducks and geese, and even crows at risk.
“The number of confirmed positive cases is just the very tip of the iceberg,” BC SPCA manager of wild animal welfare Andrea Wallace said in a media release.
“The number of suspected cases – alive or deceased – far exceeds the capacity to test the animals. In addition, many animals that pass away in the wild are never recovered.”
The organization is calling on people to remove seed and suet bird feeders, in order to discourage birds from gathering and potentially spreading the disease.
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Bird feeders, it says, create “unnatural congregations” of birds who can pass the virus to one another, or contract it from other birds droppings on the ground underneath the feeder as they forage for fallen seed.
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It’s also urging not to keep feeders or duck ponds near poultry barns, warning they can help the virus spread between domestic and wild birds.
The virus is resilient and can survive in the wild for several months, according to the BC SPCA. Anyone who visits an area where birds congregate or is in contact with wild birds should clean and disinfect their shoes, and thoroughly wash their clothes, it said.
Birds that are sick with avian influenza may appear lethargic, unusually “fluffed up,” have nasal discharge, coughing and/or sneezing, diarrhea, or have excessively watery eyes or swelling of the head, neck and eyes, the BC SPCA said.
If you see a suspected sick bird, you can call the SPCA at 1-855-622-7722 for advice about what to do or how to find a local wildlife rehabilitation centre.
Sick or dead wild birds can also be reported to the B.C. Wild Bird Mortality Investigation Protocol & Avian Influenza Surveillance Program at 1-866-431-BIRD (2473)
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