The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has confirmed a least 300 waterbirds, primarily snow geese, have died of suspected avian influenza at public hunting areas throughout southern Illinois,
Deceased wild birds have recently been found at Baldwin Lake, Pyramid State Recreation Area, Rend Lake, and Carlyle Lake.
IDNR will continue monitoring for outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, during the fall bird migration.
The risk for humans to contract HPAI is still very low, and cases, where the disease has infected humans came from situations where working conditions caused people to be in close proximity to infected poultry.
However, hunters should use good hygiene practices as a general precaution when handling, cleaning, and preparing any harvested waterfowl.
What can the general public do to help?
The public is encouraged to report large concentrations of 20 or more deceased birds at one location. Reports can be made to the local IDNR district wildlife biologist at the following link: https://www.wildlifeillinois.org/sidebar/contact-an-idnr-district-wildlife-biologist/
What are the signs of HPAI?
HPAI symptoms in wild birds can include: nervousness, tremors or lack of coordination, swelling around the head, neck, and eyes, lack of energy or movement, coughing, gasping for air or sneezing, diarrhea, or sudden death. Birds may display odd stumbling gait, inability to lift off for flight, or when on the water swimming in circles. However, wild birds, particularly waterfowl, infected with HPAI may be asymptomatic. Sick birds often show no fear of humans and will allow people or dogs to walk up to them and make no attempt to flee.
What should hunters do?
Harvest only waterfowl that act and look healthy. Do not handle or eat sick animals.
Hunters should avoid handling sick or dead waterfowl.
Hunters should avoid transporting ill or waterfowl suspected of having died from HPAI (i.e., not shot waterfowl) away from where they have found them.
Wear gloves, safety glasses, and, if possible, a well-fitting mask when cleaning or handling birds suspected of being infected.
After cleaning, carcasses should be double-bagged in sealed plastic bags. The bags can be buried away from scavengers or placed in the garbage if approved by the local waste service provider.
Anyone handling deceased birds should thoroughly wash their hands and any other clothes or tools with soap and water following disposal.
Are there risks to my dog from HPAI?
While HPAI has been detected in multiple species of mammals, including wild canids, there are presently no confirmed cases in the U.S. of domesticated dogs becoming infected. Common sense and general caution should be used. To err on the side of safety, it is recommended that dogs not be allowed to retrieve or come into contact with birds that appear sick or have been found dead. Do not allow dogs to come into contact with entrails or processed or decomposing carcasses. Do not allow dogs or other pets to consume waterfowl that died from unknown causes.
For additional resources related to Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu please visit the following links:
Look for more in-depth coverage of the southwestern Illinois outbreak and additional guidance for hunters in the next print issue of Illinois Outdoor News.