Three young grizzly bears have been put down in Montana in recent weeks after testing positive for the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus. The three bears, one near Augusta, one near Dupuyer, and another near Kalispell, were all observed to be in poor physical condition, showing signs of disorientation, partial blindness, and other neurological issues as a result of bird flu.
The bears were each euthanized. These were the first documented cases of HPAI in grizzly bears. A skunk and a fox also tested positive for the virus in the state, and it has been found in raccoons, black bears and even a coyote.
Bears ate infected birds
Wildlife Veterinarian Jennifer Ramsey said she suspects these bears got the virus from consuming infected birds.
Avian influenza virus is a naturally occurring virus in birds. HPAI viruses are extremely infectious and fatal to poultry and some species of wild birds.
Bird flu risk to humans is low
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers risk of HPAI spread to humans to be very low, you should take precautions when handling game birds, sick or dead birds and mammals you come across.
Whenever possible, avoid contact with sick or dead wildlife. Even if an animal is not suspected to have died from a contagious disease, gloves should always be worn if a dead animal must be handled for disposal.
FWP staff would like to know about unusual or unexplained cases of sickness and/or death of wild birds and animals by calling their local wildlife biologist or the wildlife lab in Bozeman at 406-577-7880 or 406-577-7882.