OLYMPIA—People who see dead wild birds can report their observations on a new, toll-free telephone line established by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
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 potential West Nile virus cases.
Callers to the WDFW 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 of bird and approximately how long the birds have been dead.
The new reporting line is part of WDFW’s surveillance effort for avian influenza.
“Since avian influenza has been found elsewhere in waterfowl and shorebird species, those are the birds we will follow most closely,” said Dr. Kristin Mansfield, WDFW veterinarian. “On the other hand, a bird that died because it flew into a window or was hit by a car would not warrant disease testing.”
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 shorebirds and waterfowl, such as ducks, geese and swans, are the birds most likely to be tested.
While wild bird die-offs occur naturally each year, the Department plans to investigate large or unusual events, Mansfield said.
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 and parts of Europe. Approximately 200 people also have contracted the disease after close contact with infected birds. The HPAI H5N1 strain has not been found in North American wild birds, although surveillance testing for the virus is under way nationwide.
Meanwhile, 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.
“Just as people routinely carry certain viruses such as the common cold, wild animals routinely carry various diseases—it’s simply common-sense to avoid touching wild animals with bare hands and to wash hands and tools after handling,” Mansfield said.