Grizzly bears euthanized in Montana after contagious bird flu
Helena, Montana - Three grizzly bears had to be euthanized after they became sick and tested positive for bird flu.
According to a news release from the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) service, three "juvenile" bears were recently observed to be in poor health, exhibiting "disorientation and partial blindness, among other neurological issues."
All of them ended up testing positive for avian influenza (HPAI) virus, commonly known as the bird flu, and their deteriorating health forced authorities to put them down.
Each bear was residing in different cities located around Flathead National Forest - one near Augusta, one near Dupuyer, and another near Kalispell.
Bird flu is a naturally occurring virus that spreads rapidly through birds. The US is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of bird flu in the last seven years, effecting habitats, zoos, and farm animals throughout the country. As of January 10, the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reported that 107 wild birds in Montana had recently tested positive.
This incident marks the first time the virus has ever been found in grizzly bears.
"We suspect these mammals probably get the virus from consuming infected birds," explained FWP Wildlife Veterinarian Jennifer Ramsey.
The agency said a fox and skunk in Montana had tested positive the previous year, and the virus has been seen in raccoons, black bears, and a coyote in other states and countries.
While the spread of the virus is rare in humans, it is possible. The FWP is advising Montana citizens to take precaution when dealing with any sick or dead birds and animals they may come across.
Cover photo: IMAGO / Wirestock