Bird flu monitoring underway as duck season opens

Green-winged teal. Photo: Fish and Wildlife Service.
Green-winged teal. Photo: Fish and Wildlife Service.

Duck season opens Sept. 1. An outbreak of pandemic bird flu in the Lower 48 has wildlife managers monitoring migratory waterfowl nationwide, including in Alaska.

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Earlier this year a hunter in Washington state shot a green-winged teal that tested positive for pathenogenic bird flu. Since then, it’s been detected in most other Western states and several midwestern states, which means efforts to monitor the current outbreak are well underway.

Dan Rosenberg with the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game is the statewide waterfowl coordinator.

“It’s not likely that we’re going to find birds with highly pathenogenic influenza in Alaska, but the possibility is always there.”

There are two active flu strains being dubbed “highly pathenogenic” right now. Rosenberg clarifies that terminology:

“Highly pathenogenic refers to their effects on poultry. It’s not in reference to effects on wild birds or on humans.”

Fish and Game is advising hunters to abide by a lot of the normal protocol for safe game handling:

“We are always advising hunters not to handle or eat obviously sick birds,” Rosenberg says.

….Wear rubber or disposable Latex gloves when you handle birds. Wash your hands, knives and countertops after handling waterfowl…..

“Don’t eat, drink or smoke when you’re handling the animals so there isn’t that tendency to take your hand from the bird to the food to your mouth,” Rosenberg says. “And thoroughly cook birds to 160-degrees Fahrenheit.”

Bird hunters in the Palmer Hayflats and the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge may run into field technicians asking for samples from hunter-shot birds.

Also new this year: the price of a federal duck stamp goes from $15 to $25. And in Alaska, the rules for exactly who needs a federal duck stamp have changed.

Bag limits for certain goose species have also changed in certain hunting districts.

Find those changes and more specifics from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.