Wild Turkeys at low risk of catching bird flu

Jeff Alexander looks at the potential impact with the spring hunting season starting
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 1:53 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Cases of the bird flu have been discovered in three more Wisconsin counties, including Sheboygan County.

Since mid-March close to three million domestic chickens have been killed to keep the virus from spreading.

But what about the potential impact on wild turkeys with the spring hunting season starting next week?

With cases of wild birds succumbing to the bird flu over the last few week in southern Wisconsin, the DNR is closely monitoring the current strain of avian influenza.

“This one actually is affecting wild birds at a higher rate than we have seen in other strains of avian influenza, particularly waterfowl and raptors, waterfowl, wetland birds and raptors,” says Taylor Finger, DNR Migratory Game Bird Biologist.

Finger says waterfowl are the known carriers, and with spring migration underway, more cases of bird flu are arriving in the state.

But when it comes to threatening wild turkeys, concern is low.

“Wild turkeys not very much because they have to come in contact with something that would be carrying avian influenza and in most cases turkeys and waterfowl aren’t interacting, and in no cases is it at a huge level in terms of a large number of turkeys interacting with waterfowl and then passing it along, so not saying that wild turkeys would never get it, but the likelihood is very low,” explains Finger.

Turkey hunters though, should still heed the following advice.

“If you see a sick or dead bird, don’t shoot it, don’t approach it, that’s a common health issue that we want to say and for particularly with this, just to be extra careful and reassure yourself is making sure you cook that turkey to the internal temperature of 165, just making sure you’re not eating any raw poultry,” says Finger.

Hunters are asked to contact the DNR if they come across any sick birds while in the woods this spring.

Finger says historically, outbreaks of the bird flu come to an end once the weather turns warmer.

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