Minnesota DNR asks waterfowl hunters to take precautions for avian flu

(ABC 6 News) – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is advising hunters to take precautions for avian influenza when handling harvested birds as some waterfowl hunting seasons begin on Saturday.

“Waterfowl hunters can take steps to minimize the risk of spreading the virus,” said Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program supervisor. “We’re already getting reports of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild and domestic birds before fall, so the virus is currently present in Minnesota.”

A Meeker County commercial turkey flock reported an increase in bird mortality last weekend, which led to samples being collected and tested at the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory.

Those samples were confirmed for avian influenza by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa Tuesday evening.

RELATED: Deadly bird flu confirmed in Minnesota, “sooner than anticipated” according to officials

While the virus presents a low risk to humans, the DNR says it is important to avoid contact with sick birds and be mindful that the virus may also be transported by hunting equipment.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes the following recommendations for hunters to protect themselves from avian influenza:

  • Do not handle or eat sick game.
  • Field dress and prepare game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
  • Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game.
  • When done handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectant, and clean knives, equipment, and surfaces that came in contact with game.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals.
  • All game should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before being consumed.

Minnesota has a variety of waterfowl seasons that open in September:

  • September 3-7: experimental early teal season
  • September 3-18: early goose season
  • September 10-11: youth waterfowl hunt
  • September 24: main waterfowl season opens

To check out more dates for waterfowl seasons in Minnesota, CLICK HERE.

Waterfowl hunters might see DNR staff at some landings during the season where voluntary sampling for avian influenza will be happening.

To learn more about avian influenza, CLICK HERE.