MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Following the detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Menominee County, wildlife officials are making suggestions to help prevent the spread of the virus.

According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), HPAI is a highly contagious virus that can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers. 

We spoke with Brian Roell, a biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday. He spoke about how HPAI can spread among wild birds, specifically those who congregate, like vultures or eagles at a kill site.

“Any of these birds that congregate are susceptible. particularly water fowl. that would be the most suspect animals. Right now we recommend if you do feed water fowl of any type for the safety of the birds. I know some folks that live on lakes and like to put out some corn and watch those birds, but this would be the year for the safety of the birds and your own safety that you’re not attracting that water fowl to your yard,” said Roell.

Roell said avian influenza is not typically seen in song birds, but it is possible that it could be spread at backyard bird feeders. He suggests skipping the feeders this year. With warmer weather moving in, birds are able to find their own food sources. For those who do keep backyard flocks, including birds like chickens or turkeys, Roell suggests monitoring how you feed your birds.

“You would want to make sure your chickens are not associated with any wild bird. So if wild birds are able to feed from the same trough or pail that your domestic chickens are, that would be something you’d want to stop right now for the safety of your own birds,” added Roell.

If you come across a wild bird, you suspect could be infected with HPAI, call the DNR and don’t touch them, especially if you have birds at home as the virus is highly transmissable.