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Environment & Science

Avian flu confirmed in Montana, Wyoming

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USDA
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The Montana Department of Livestock on Friday confirmed cases of the bird flu in poultry in Judith Basin and Cascade Counties. The announcement comes about a week after Wyoming reported its first case late last month.

Even before the state's first cases were confirmed, animal care facilities in south central Montana were taking steps to decrease risk of infection among their birds.

The potentially fatal avian flu is easily passed from bird to bird, and can cause issues with muscle coordination, lethargy and low appetite.

Becky Kean, director of rehabilitation at the nonprofit Montana Raptor Conservation Center in Bozeman, said the rehabilitation facility is taking the threat seriously, even though they’re short on testing supplies and space.

"We’re in the beginning stages of trying to figure out our quarantine process and in take process with these birds because… it is pretty much a death sentence for these birds unfortunately," she said.

Meanwhile, Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge says it’s covering its bird of prey cages with wire mesh to prevent wild birds from entering and will take its ravens and crow inside.

The director of Zoo Montana in Billings says the facility is monitoring only its birds of prey for now, and will cover its chicken yard with netting to keep poultry separated from the zoo’s roaming peacocks.

According to the state Department of Agriculture, Montana is the 25th state to confirm the avian flu since the beginning of the year. The last time the avian flu was detected in Montana was 2015.

Editor’s note, April 21: This story has been updated with the correct last name and title of the Montana Raptor Conservation Center’s Rehabilitation Director Becky Kean.