Monday, April 13, 2015

DNR offers guidance for turkey hunters in areas near avian flu

While avian influenza has not yet been found in wild turkeys, hunters are nonetheless reminded of ways to avoid potentially spreading the virus.

To date, highly-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been found in Cottonwood, Kandiyohi, Lac Qui Parle, Lyon, Meeker, Nobles, Pope, Stearns and Watonwan counties. So far, it has only been confirmed in domestic turkey farms. Waterfowl are the natural reservoirs for the virus.

Wild turkeys are presumed to be susceptible to HPAI. Raptors are known to be susceptible.The virus presents a low risk to humans but it is important to avoid contact with sick birds. 

"Turkey hunters can take steps to minimize the risk of spreading HPAI, and they can be excellent scouts in helping identify wild birds like raptors or turkeys that could have been affected," said Michelle Carstensen, wildlife health program supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The USDA makes the following recommendations for turkey hunters to protect themselves and their birds from avian influenza.

In the field

  • Do not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead.
  • Dress your game birds in the field whenever possible.
  • Use dedicated tools for cleaning game, whether in the field or at home. Do not use those tools around your poultry or pet birds. 
  • Always wear rubber gloves when cleaning game. 
  • Double bag the internal organs and feathers. Tie the inner bag, and be sure to take off your rubber gloves and leave them in the outer bag before tying it closed. Place the bag in a trash can that poultry and pet birds cannot access. This trash can should also be secure against access by children, pets, or other animals. 
  • Wash hands with soap and water immediately after handling game. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol wipes. 
  • Wash all tools and work surfaces with soap and water. Then, disinfect them. Do not eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning game.

At home

  • If you clean a bird at home, keep a separate pair of shoes to wear only in your game cleaning area. If this is not possible, wear rubber footwear and clean/disinfect your shoes before entering or leaving the area.
  • Wash all tools and work surfaces with soap and water. Then, disinfect them.
  • Avoid cross-contamination. Keep uncooked game in a separate container, away from cooked or ready-to-eat foods. 
  • You should always cook game meat thoroughly; poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill disease organisms and parasites.

The risk to the public is very low, and there is no food safety concern, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The DNR also advises hunters that if they see any birds that have died in the field or appear sick (ruffled feathers, swollen wattles, discoloration of the feet and impaired balance) notify DNR staff as soon as possible and don't touch or attempt to move the birds.

If you see a dead or sick wild turkey or raptor, mark the location by GPS if possible and contact DNR with the coordinates. Contacts are:

  • Wildlife Health Program Supervisor Michelle Carstensen at 612-390-9979;
  • Wildlife Health Specialist Erik Hildebrand at 612-597-8141; or
  • Contact your local area wildlife manager by finding their information at www.mndnr.gov/wildlife and clicking on the area contact map.

Additional information about avian influenza is on  the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/avianinfluenza.

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