Be careful of avian flu if you’re hunting waterfowl

I’m getting this message out a little late, because the waterfowl seasons that are still open are getting close to the end. But this might be a good year to skip those last few goose hunts, because of the avian flu outbreak.

It seems like we just keep getting hit with outbreaks of disease, and about the time we get past one, another one crops up to take its place. A few years ago, it was the pandemic I won’t name, because it just makes people mad. And now, it’s the avian flu.

The full name of this one is the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. It’s a very apt name for it. It’s what’s responsible for eggs being more than $6 a dozen. It’s already wiped out many of the chickens in poultry production operations, and now it’s taking a toll on our wild birds, including geese.

The thing is, it doesn’t just affect birds. It may be called the Avian Influenza, but it’s zoonotic, meaning it can be transmitted to humans, or even to other animals. Just a few days ago, there was a confirmed case of a fox dying after being infected by eating affected birds near Powell, and Montana officials euthanized three grizzly bears that were suffering from the virus.

If you’re still hunting geese this year, be careful. It’s harder to watch geese before you shoot them than it is to observe odd behavior in big game animals, but the same precautions apply. Try to not shoot any animals that are visibly ill. And when you field dress them, wear rubber or nitrile gloves, and wash your hands and knives thoroughly with soap or disinfectant.

If you see clusters of dead birds, report them to your nearest Game and Fish regional office or fill out the online form on the Game and Fish website.

Keep this all in mind if you hunt light geese later this month, too. They’re not immune to avian influenza, either.