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Avian flu has been detected in grizzly bears in Montana

Grizzly bear. Stock photo.
Grizzly bear. Stock photo.

State wildlife officials say that the first documented cases of avian flu infections in grizzly bears have been detected in Montana.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced that three juvenile grizzlies have tested positive this fall for a particularly infectious strain of avian influenza.

One bear near Augusta, another near Dupuyer and one near Kalispell appeared disoriented, in generally poor condition and partially blind.

They were all euthanized due to their illness and all tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which are the first documented cases of HPAI in grizzly bears.

Avian influenza virus naturally occurs in birds. FWP Wildlife Veterinarian Jennifer Ramsey says that officials suspect that the bears contracted the virus from consuming infected birds.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk of the virus’ spread to humans to be very low. Montanans, however, are encouraged to avoid contact with sick or dead wildlife.

According to Fish, Wildlife and Parks, a fox and a skunk also tested positive for HPAI in Montana last year.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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