As bird flu spreads in the province, the BC SPCA is asking the public to remove bird feeds from their yards and empty bird baths to help prevent the spread of the highly pathogenic HPAI strain.
The BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food confirmed this week that a second small flock of chickens in Kelowna has tested positive for avian flu in recent weeks.
Two other small flocks in Kelowna and in the Regional District of Central Kootenay have tested positive and The first confirmation of H5N1 in B.C. poultry was at a commercial producer in Enderby in mid-April.
The SPCA says the virus can affect many different species of birds, including domestic chickens and turkeys, but waterfowl and raptors like eagles, hawks and owls are at higher risk.
It’s asking for the temporary removal of bird feeds and bird baths because the virus is shed by infected birds through feces and respiratory secretions, and can survive in the environment for several months.
“Bird feeders can be sites for disease spread because they encourage unnatural congregations of birds and attract other wildlife,” says Dr. Andrea Wallace, manager of wild animal welfare for the BC SPCA.
She notes that they also elevate the risk of transmitting the illness to nearby animals such as backyard chickens and turkeys.
“On rare occasions, this virus can also cause disease in humans who have been in close contact with infected birds, or heavily contaminated areas,” adds Wallace. “We need to do everything we can to stop H5N1 in its tracks.”
If you find a sick or dead bird, you’re being asked to report it to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) at 1-800-567-2033.
A biologist may be dispatched to retrieve the carcass for further testing. “Please do not bring deceased birds to a wildlife rehabilitation centre or veterinary clinic as they will not be able to test for the disease,” says Wallace.
While hummingbird feeders pose the lowest risk of spreading the virus because they are species-specific, Wallace says it’s important to regularly change the nectar and clean hummingbird feeders to prevent deadly fungal outbreaks.