Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre suspending acceptance of two species due to avian influenza

A recent spike in avian influenza is causing the Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre to suspend accepting some specific birds indefinitely.

The organization said it has seen a steep increase of the influenza in wild species, specifically in geese and ducks in Winnipeg and surrounding areas.

Zoe Nakata, the executive director of the centre, said the spike has been seen in Canada geese and blue-winged teal.

“We’re quite concerned that those two species are seeing a high number of cases out in the wild. So based on what we’ve seen come in as patients here, what we’re seeing from people calling in on our wildlife hotline,” said Nakata.

Due to the spike, she said the centre has suspended accepting these two avian species to protect the other birds in their care and also those who work there.

“We just have limited capacity of what we can keep in quarantine. We just had to make that difficult decision at the moment for a very temporary and a very limited amount of time to put a hold on accepting those patients here.”

Nakata said avian influenza is highly transmissible, especially among waterfowl, which could eventually lead to it being spread to raptor birds, such as hawks.

She noted since the centre takes in so many different types of birds, they are very vulnerable when spikes in influenza appear.

“We really have to weigh the pros and cons of each species that comes here to receive care. So when we do these kinds of decisions, we don’t take that lightly and we really have to see what can keep our doors open to receive the most number of animals that we can provide care to.”

Nakata said there was a slowdown of the influenza in the summer months but it has started to pick up again because of the fall migration.

In the meantime, she said the centre will not be able to respond to calls from the public if they find geese or blue-winged teal if they are sick or injured.

However, she said people can still call the Manitoba Conservation tip line and they will be able to provide advice or respond to the scene.

Nakata is also reminding people that although it is rare, avian influenza can be transmitted to humans. She said people shouldn’t hand feed birds and if they are having to dispose of a bird who was sick, they should use the proper PPE to handle it.

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