Google Translate Disclaimer

A number of pages on the Government of Saskatchewan's website have been professionally translated in French. These translations are identified by a yellow box in the right or left rail that resembles the link below. The home page for French-language content on this site can be found at:

Renseignements en Français

Where an official translation is not available, Google™ Translate can be used. Google™ Translate is a free online language translation service that can translate text and web pages into different languages. Translations are made available to increase access to Government of Saskatchewan content for populations whose first language is not English.

Software-based translations do not approach the fluency of a native speaker or possess the skill of a professional translator. The translation should not be considered exact, and may include incorrect or offensive language. The Government of Saskatchewan does not warrant the accuracy, reliability or timeliness of any information translated by this system. Some files or items cannot be translated, including graphs, photos and other file formats such as portable document formats (PDFs).

Any person or entities that rely on information obtained from the system does so at his or her own risk. Government of Saskatchewan is not responsible for any damage or issues that may possibly result from using translated website content. If you have any questions about Google™ Translate, please visit: Google™ Translate FAQs.

Avian Influenza in Wild Birds

Avian Influenza Viruses

Avian influenza viruses occur globally in wild birds, especially in waterfowl and shorebirds.

While most strains of avian influenza circulating in wild birds do not cause disease in those species, occasionally the virus may spread to domestic poultry, where it can develop into strains that cause significant mortality, referred to as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

Since the detection of H5N1 avian influenza in Asia in 2005, there have been several HPAI viruses of global significance reported across Asia, Europe, and North America. Although current strains circulating in North America appear to be less likely to infect humans and do not appear to spread easily from person to person, individuals should take precautions when handling sick or dead birds.

Avian Influenza in Saskatchewan

In September 2007, H7N3, a strain of avian influenza that is not associated with human illness, was detected in a commercial poultry operation in Saskatchewan.

The occurrence of the virus in migratory birds moving northward across the Central and Mississippi flyways could result in the introduction of the strain into Saskatchewan with the spring migration. While the impact on wildlife populations is not known at this time, the Government of Saskatchewan and federal partners are monitoring for any incidents of avian mortality.

National Inter-Agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey

The Government of Saskatchewan has participated in the National Inter-Agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey since 2006. The Government of Saskatchewan, along with partners at Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative conduct regular surveillance for avian influenza in wild birds including investigation of wildlife disease and mortality, as well and opportunistic sampling of live birds associated with routine bird banding activities and hunter harvest.

Saskatchewan's Ministry of Environment takes an active role in the dead wild bird survey and encourages field officers to target their investigation and collection of dead wild birds based on a priority approach for waterfowl and water bird mortality.

Safe Handling Procedures for Dead Birds

As a general precaution, people should avoid direct contact with sick or dead birds.

Avian influenza virus is shed in the fecal droppings, saliva and nasal discharges of birds, so you should avoid direct or indirect contact with these body fluids and secretions. There is very low risk of contracting avian influenza without having direct, significant and prolonged contact with infected birds.

If you are removing a dead bird from your property, or submitting it for testing, the safe handling of the carcass provides protection from contracting avian influenza.

When handling dead birds, wear heavy-duty rubber gloves, dish gloves, latex plastic gloves, or double latex gloves. You may also use leak-proof plastic bags as gloves. Ensure that the bird's bill and claws do not puncture the bag or gloves when picking up the carcass.

If you are submitting the bird for evaluation, it should be double-bagged in clean garbage bags, sealed and kept cool or frozen until they can be dropped off at a Ministry of Environment office or at the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC). Collect and submit the specimen with the following information:

  • location where the bird was found;
  • species;
  • estimated number of dead species; and
  • finder's contact information.

If you not are submitting the animal for evaluation, the carcass can be disposed of in your garbage.

If you have direct or indirect contact with birds or their bodily fluids, follow with thorough cleansing with soap and water, or rinsing with alcohol-based hand products (containing >60 per cent alcohol) if hands are not visibly soiled.

Dispose of or wash gloves afterwards with soap and water. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand products.

Information for Hunters

Hunters should be aware of the signs of avian flu during the spring hunting season and should take the necessary precautions, when retrieving shot birds.

You can safely hunt, handle and eat healthy game birds; however, follow routine precautions:

  • Avoid direct contact (skin or mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth) with blood, feces and respiratory secretions of all wild birds.
  • Do not rub eyes, eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning, de-feathering or removing the contents of game.
  • Ideally, wear dish gloves or latex/plastic gloves when cleaning, defeathering and removing the contents of game.
  • Wash gloves, hands and clothing with soap and warm water immediately after processing game.
  • Wash tools, work surfaces, and other equipment with soap and warm water, then with a 10 per cent solution of household bleach - just the same as you would after handling raw chicken.
  • Cook game meat thoroughly, to an internal temperature of approximately 70º C (160º F). Observe good food safety practices.
  • If you become ill while handling birds or shortly thereafter, see your doctor. Inform your doctor that you have been in contact with wild birds; and
  • For public health reasons, people who frequently handle wild birds should consider annual vaccinations against seasonal human influenza. This will not protect people from avian influenza, but it will reduce the likelihood of a person becoming infected with both human and avian influenza strains simultaneously. This reduces opportunities for viral reassortment and mutation that would allow a highly pathogenic avian influenza to become a highly transferable human influenza.

Report and Submit Dead Birds

The Ministry of Environment leads the collection and shipment of dead birds to the CWHC in Saskatoon.

Field officers will only go and pick up carcasses of dead wild birds if the mortality found or reported fits the following criteria:

  • Bird species that use aquatic or wetland habitats, especially waterfowl and water birds.
  • Mortality that appears unusual for the region or location.
  • Mortality involving more than one species of wild birds.
  • Mortality involving notable number of waterfowl or other water birds.
  • Mortality involving any number of raptors or avian scavengers (e.g. ravens, crows, gulls).
  • Illness including neurological symptoms in any number of raptors, waterfowl, or avian scavengers.

For all other wild birds found dead, the public may submit the specimens either directly to the CWHC in Saskatoon or drop off the specimen(s) (double-bagged and labeled appropriately) at any Ministry of Environment field office during regular office hours. Collect and submit the specimen with a submission form containing appropriate information, such as:

  • location where the bird was found;
  • species;
  • estimated number of dead species; and
  • finder's contact information.

Submission forms can be found online on the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative website.

Dispose of or wash gloves afterwards with soap and water. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand products.

To report sick or dead birds, please contact:

Observations of sick birds and wildlife mortalities can be reported online to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative or through the 'Wildlife Health Tracker' app.

Observations can also be reported by phone to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 306-966-5815 or the Ministry of Environment Inquiry Line at 1-800-567-4224.

For further information, please contact:

CWHC Western/Northern Office
306-966-5099
AIV Hotline (toll-free): 1-866-544-4744
wn@cwhc-rcsf.ca

Helpful Links:

Avian Influenza and Wild Birds

Prevent the Spread of Avian Influenza in Wild Birds - Infographic

Wild birds and avian influenza – Handling guidelines – Public Health Agency of Canada

Avian influenza in wild birds and avian influenza – Environment and Climate Change Canada

Avian Influenza and Domestic Poultry and Pet Birds

How to prevent and detect disease in backyard flocks and pet birds – Canadian Food Inspection Agency

We need your feedback to improve saskatchewan.ca. Help us improve