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December 11, 2006
Contact: Nancy Burkhart, (360) 902-2449

Commission expands bird testing for avian influenza

TUMWATER – To protect public health and Northwest bird populations, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has adopted a rule requiring game-bird farmers to test their flocks for avian influenza at least once a year.

The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the bird-testing rule during a public meeting here Dec. 8-9.

The new rule, developed by WDFW in cooperation with the Washington Department of Agriculture, requires approximately 80 game farms raising game birds and waterfowl in Washington state to annually test 10 percent of their flock – up to a maximum of 30 birds. Testing at the game farms was previously conducted on a voluntary basis.

Earlier this year, WDFW began testing hunter-harvested and free-flying birds for avian influenza, said Dave Ware, game manager for WDFW. The testing, which focuses on shorebird and waterfowl species vulnerable to avian influenza, is part of a national surveillance effort.

Although the strain of avian influenza transmissible to humans has not been found in North America, other strains of the virus have been found in wild birds, Ware said.

“With hundreds of thousands of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds passing through Washington each year, it’s important that we expand the monitoring effort for avian influenza to include game-bird farms in this state,” said Ron Ozment, chairman of the commission.

In other action, the nine-member commission:

  • Banned the harvest of green sturgeon by commercial fisheries.

  • Modified the boundaries of an elk-hunting area, and created a Pumice Plain Elk Area near Mount St. Helens and a Methow Deer Area in the Methow Valley.

  • Expanded hunting opportunities through landowner hunting permits on private ranches in Grant and Asotin counties.

  • Adopted spring bear hunting seasons for 2007-09, including a new permit hunt in the Copalis unit.

  • Increased the number of moose raffle permits from one to two in 2007.

Commissioners also heard briefings on a variety of other issues, including the tiger muskie fishery, the Private Lands Access Program and renegotiation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty.