Bird flu responsible for thousands of dead birds in Newfoundland, preliminary tests suggest

According to the Canadian Wildlife Service, preliminary results from testing migratory seabirds that washed up in the thousands on Newfoundland’s Avalon and Burin Peninsulas suggest the cause of death was avian flu.

According to Becky Whittam, head of wildlife and habitat assessment for the federal government’s Atlantic region, the most common species is the common murre, but razorbills, gannets Gannets and sea gulls are also dying.

In May, thousands of gannets from a colony in the Magdalen Islands died of the highly pathogenic H5N1 flu and were stranded along Newfoundland, Cape Breton, PEI of Prince Edward and New Brunswick. The latest test results mean Newfoundland and Labrador joins the Maritimes and Quebec as a province with positive cases.

Whittam said recent seabird deaths appear to be linked to seabirds breeding in Newfoundland along Cape St. Mary’s and other seabird colonies as well.

Preliminary results come from samples sent to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative in Prince Edward Island, she said. Samples have now been sent to the National Center for Foreign Animal Diseases in Winnipeg.

Whittam said it’s hard to say how high the death toll will go. She said the Canadian Wildlife Service is working with provinces and the federal government to track carcasses on beaches and assess the impact on seabirds.

The Canadian Wildlife Service’s Atlantic region habitat manager says gannets are one of the populations affected by avian flu. (Radio-Canada)

« It’s a very large scale mortality event, » Whittam said. « We work hard to collect data. »

Next week, the Canadian Wildlife Service hopes to conduct aerial surveys of gannet colonies in Newfoundland to assess impacts, she said.

Keep pets away from dead seabirds: Canadian Wildlife Service

If people come across dead seabirds, Whittam said, it’s important to report them to the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Hotline. Do not handle dead birds and keep them away from pets, she said, as foxes have tested positive for bird flu in Prince Edward Island.

« We don’t know if dogs can get bird flu, but prevention is definitely better than cure, » she said.

Learn more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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