Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Two foxes felled by avian influenza

Two young foxes near St. Marys died of avian influenza after feeding on infected birds, according to Brian Stevens, a wildlife pathologist at the University of Guelph.

Other wildlife to fall victim are bald eagles, crows, blue jays, gulls and raptors.

This is different from the plague of avian influenza in 2015 when there were few reports of deaths among wildlife.

In both cases, the flu was spread by migrating wildfowl – mainly ducks and geese.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency lists 68 outbreaks in poultry flocks, 23 each in Alberta and Ontario, and a total of 1,740,500 birds sacrificed. Most have been chickens and turkeys, but Ontario had a large loss of ducks at a farm north of Guelph.

Stevens said this highly-pathogenic strain of avian influenza was first detected in Ontario wildlife in mid-March and the casualties are mounting. As of the start of May, he had detected the virus 55 times in wild animals which is three to four times more than usual.

"The variant that's out there now is affecting a lot of wildlife, which is not something we typically see. So the fact that it's jumping [to foxes] and causing severe disease and death of Canada geese and a number of different raptor species is concerning.”

Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre at Mount Brydges has stopped taking sick or dying birds. Brian Salt, the group's founder, said he doesn't want to risk bringing the highly pathogenic virus into his operation or the operations of his neighbours. 

"We're like a lit fuse in a powder keg," he said of his wildlife centre's proximity to dozens of southwestern Ontario poultry farms in the Strathroy-Caradoc area.