B.C. SPCA urging British Columbians to remove feeders due to deadly bird flu | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. SPCA urging British Columbians to remove feeders due to deadly bird flu

Image Credit: BC SPCA/Stephanie Watson

The B.C. SPCA is urging residents to take down bird feeders as a deadly bird flu has spread across Canada.

Multiple outbreaks of the highly pathogenic avian influenza have been confirmed at poultry farms in Kelowna, Enderby and the West Kootenays.

 The non-profit asks to temporarily remove backyard bird feeders and empty bird baths to prevent the spread of the disease. The Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society has also asked residents to take feeders down.

Wild birds play a key role in the spread of the flu. Although waterfowl including ducks, geese and gulls and raptors are at the highest risk, avian influenza viruses can infect all avian species. The virus is shed by infected birds through feces and respiratory secretions and is very resilient – it can survive in the environment for several months and continue to infect other birds, according to the SPCA's press release.

Bird feeders facilitate the spread of the disease by encouraging unnatural congregations of birds and attracting other wildlife including predators and rodents. Fallen seed is also an especially bad source of disease – when birds feed from the ground, they are also exposed to droppings that accumulate below a feeder.

The presence of bird feeders and baths can also increase the risk of transmitting the virus between nearby animals like backyard chickens or turkeys.

On rare occasions, this virus can cause disease in humans that have close contact with infected birds, or heavily contaminated areas, according to the SPCA.

Residents should report sightings of sick or dead wild birds to the provincial Wild Bird Mortality Line at 1-866-431-2473. If the report is assessed to require further investigation, a biologist may retrieve the carcass for further testing. Do not bring deceased birds to a wildlife rehabilitation centre or veterinary clinic as they will not be able to test for the disease, according to the SPCA.

Hummingbird feeders are not without risk but pose the lowest risk because they are species-specific and have a more limited group of birds visiting them. However, the SPCA said residents should regularly change the nectar and clean hummingbird feeders to prevent deadly fungal outbreaks. 


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