Grizzly bears test positive for avian influenza in Montana, First documented cases

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Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Reports indicate that three young bears tested positive for the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus this fall.

Image courtesy of Marg Strickland from Pixabay

The three bears, one near Augusta, one near Dupuyer, and one near Kalispell, were noted to be in poor condition and showed disorientation and partial blindness, among other neurological problems. They were euthanized due to their illness and poor condition.

These were the first documented cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in grizzly bears. A fox and a skunk in Montana also tested positive for the highly pathogenic bird flu virus last year, and the virus has been found in raccoons, black bears and even coyotes in other states and countries.

“We suspect these mammals may have gotten the virus from eating infected birds,” said Jennifer Ramsey, a wildlife veterinarian from FWP.

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Avian influenza virus (AI) is a virus that occurs naturally in birds. Avian influenza viruses are classified into two groups, based on the severity of the disease they cause in infected poultry. Low pathogenic avian influenza viruses generally cause no clinical disease or only mild symptoms in birds. Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses are highly infectious and fatal to poultry and some species of wild birds.

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