DUC closely follows developments related to avian influenza (commonly known as bird flu) and defers to lead government and health agencies who are experts in this field for official updates and public advisories.
People are warned not to handle dead birds and to keep dogs and other pets away from birds found dead of unknown causes. The feeding of waterfowl and other wild birds is also strongly discouraged.
Important information for hunters
There may be restrictions on importing or exporting harvested meat from migratory game birds hunted in areas affected by HPAI. For more information, consult the following Canadian government resources:
In the United States, refer to:
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service HPAI website
- Imports: Animal and Animal Products (USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service)
- Update: Allowance of Hunter Harvested Wild Bird Game Carcasses from Canada (issued Sept. 12, 2022)
What to do if you observe sick or dead birds
Please contact the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 1-800-567-2033 or one of the provincial organizations listed below if you observe sick or dead birds.
- In Newfoundland and Labrador, contact the Wildlife Emergency Number at (709) 685-7273.
- In Prince Edward Island, contact the Forests, Fish and Wildlife Division at (902) 368-4683.
- In Nova Scotia, contact the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables at 1-800-565-2224.
- In New Brunswick, contact the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development at 1-833-301-0334.
- In Québec, contact the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs at 1-877-346-6763.
- In Ontario, contact the Ontario regional centre of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at (866) 673-4781
- In Manitoba, contact the Manitoba Natural Resources and Northern Development 24 hours at 1-800-782-0076.
- In Saskatchewan, contact the Ministry of Environment Inquiry Centre at 1-800-567-4224.
- In Alberta, contact the Alberta Environment and Parks Office at 310-0000.
- In British Columbia, contact the Forest, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development at (250) 751-3234
- In the Yukon, contact the Turn in Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) at 1-800-661-0525 or online
- In Northwest Territories, contact the Department of Environment and Natural Resources using the regional wildlife emergency number
- In Nunavut, contact your local conservation officer at the Department of the Environment
What is Avian Flu?
- Avian flu (bird flu) is a common, naturally occurring virus in birds that has many forms or subtypes.
- Scientists believe all birds are susceptible to infection by some form of avian flu. Some birds, like waterfowl, can be infected with the virus but develop no signs of illness.
- Birds become infected via the fecal-oral route. This happens through direct contact with secretions or feces of infected birds, contaminated surfaces, or infected food and water supplies. It also may be possible for wild birds to transfer the virus by their feet, feathers or dander.
- The potency (virulence) varies greatly among the various subtypes of the avian flu virus.
- Virulence is classified as either low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) or high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
- Most avian flu subtypes are LPAI and cause little or no signs of illness in domestic or wild birds and pose no threat to human health. These subtypes are found every year in waterfowl.
- HPAI viruses are associated with the H5 and H7 subtypes. Some strains of the H5 and H7 subtypes are extremely infectious and fatal to domestic poultry, resulting in the complete loss of flocks and the quarantine of infected farms.
- Some strains, such as the high pathogenic H5N1 strain that appeared in Southeast Asia in 1997 and first appeared in Canada in 2014 can affect human health.
Poultry industry concerns
- Domestic poultry have no natural immunity to HPAI, and so experience nearly 100% mortality when infected.
- High concentrations of domestic birds facilitate transmission throughout poultry barns.
- These vulnerabilities mean that HPAI can have devastating economic consequences to the poultry industry and protein supply chain.
- Prevention, preparedness and response efforts are operated by the Canadian Food and Health Inspection Agency, including strict biosecurity efforts to reduce the introduction of HPAI into poultry flocks.
Contact with birds
- Although the risk of catching avian flu from wild birds is very low, hunters and people who prepare and cook wild birds are encouraged to follow safe food handling practices, as outlined via government health agencies.
- Avian flu does not pose a food safety risk when wild or domestic poultry products are handled and cooked properly.
How Ducks Unlimited Canada responds to Avian Flu
- We monitor avian flu developments from the lead natural resource and human health agencies in North America and across the world.
- We direct all queries to the lead government agencies at the federal, provincial and municipal levels in Canada.
- We work to ensure solutions that help prevent the spread of avian flu take into consideration the need to conserve Canada’s wetlands.
- We join many other organizations world-wide to strongly oppose the culling of wild birds and the draining of wetlands as a means of controlling avian flu.
- Ducks Unlimited Canada staff do not visit project sites that fall within avian flu quarantine zones.