OLYMPIA – With the annual wild bird migration under way, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reminds people to report dead wild birds on a toll-free telephone line.
“We continue to test birds for the highly pathogenic form of avian influenza, and this reporting tool contributes to that surveillance effort,” said Dr. Kristin Mansfield, WDFW veterinarian.
Wild birds are known to carry various strains of avian influenza, often without serious health effects. However, one strain, known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 (HPAI H5N1), has sickened and killed birds in Asia, Europe and Africa.
No birds in Washington have tested positive for the highly pathogenic avian influenza, Mansfield said. Over the past year, WDFW, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies and organizations have tested more than 4,000 birds in Washington.
Most dead bird reports can be submitted by calling WDFW’s toll-free line at
1-800-606-8768. The exceptions are dead crows, ravens, magpies and jays, which should be reported to local city or county health departments that are tracking those species for West Nile virus.
Callers to WDFW’s reporting line will be asked to leave their name, telephone number, the date and time of the call, the number of dead birds they are reporting, the specific location of the birds and – if known – the species and approximately how long the birds have been dead.
“We’re mainly interested in looking at migratory waterfowl and other waterbirds because those are the species that have tested positive for the highly pathogenic strain of the avian influenza virus elsewhere in the world,” said Mansfield.
Reports will be reviewed by WDFW wildlife experts, who will respond as needed. The bird species and the apparent circumstances of its death will determine whether a dead bird is tested for avian influenza, said Mansfield. Recently deceased waterfowl, such as ducks, geese and swans, are the birds most likely to be tested. Birds that die because they flew into a window or were hit by a car do not warrant reports, she said.
While wild bird die-offs occur naturally each year, the department plans to investigate large or unusual events, Mansfield said.
As a standard safety precaution for protection from various diseases carried by wildlife, people should not handle dead wild birds with bare hands or transport them. Those who choose to bury or dispose of dead birds that are not needed for disease testing are advised to wear rubber gloves or use a long-handled shovel, and to clean hands and tools with soap and water or alcohol wipes afterward.
For more information on avian influenza visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/avian_flu/.