Sunday, June 16, 2024

A Polar Bear Died from Hen Flu in Alaska


Avian influenza has already killed black bears and grizzlies. It is the primary documented case in polar bears

Katie Hill Avatar

polar bear walking on Alaskan tundra

The polar bear’s demise means all three Alaskan bear species have been impacted by the lethal virus. USFWS

Biologists from Alaska’s state veterinarian workplace confirmed final month that extremely pathogenic avian influenza, generally referred to as HPAI or H5N1, has killed a polar bear, within the first documented case of its form. The polar bear was discovered lifeless on the North Slope in Utqiagvik in October, its demise doubtless the results of contracting the virus after scavenging on HPAI-infected carcasses.

With the affirmation of the polar bear’s reason behind demise comes a disturbing actuality for Alaska’s wildlife managers: all three of Alaska’s bear species have now confirmed vulnerable to HPAI. A yr and a day earlier than the polar bear affirmation, a Kodiak bear died from HPAI on Kodiak Island. Three weeks earlier, a black bear died in Hoonah. 

December marked the fifth month in a row the place a minimum of two animals had been confirmed to have died from the illness in Alaska, though the polar bear was solely the second of two Alaskan mammals identified to have died from fowl flu in 2023. The opposite was a pink fox that died in March, in line with the state HPAI database. However as mortality soars on northern California hen farms and in Alaskan fowl nests alike, predators like bears and foxes proceed to be susceptible to contracting the illness wherever it’s current in prey species. 

“Throughout North America, and actually world wide, plenty of wild birds today – I imply, hundreds of untamed birds today, tens of hundreds in some instances — are dying due to these extremely pathogenic avian influenza viruses,” U.S. Geological Survey wildlife geneticist Andy Ramey informed the Alaska Beacon. “What we’re coping with now’s a state of affairs that we haven’t handled previously. And so there’s no guide.”

The latest documented fowl deaths in Alaska had been within the southern Kenai Fjords, roughly 800 miles south of the Utqiagvik polar bear. Nonetheless, elsewhere on the North Slope, 4 different fowl carcasses (three short-tailed sheerwaters and one black-legged kittiwake) examined optimistic for fowl flu since Aug. 25. As is normally the case with wildlife ailments, the animals that check optimistic are solely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what number of sick people are literally on the panorama. 

Learn Subsequent: Deadliest Hen Flu Outbreak in U.S. Historical past Is Killing Bears, Mountain Lions, and Marine Mammals

Since March 2022, a minimum of 207 mammals throughout 21 species have died in 27 states resulting from HPAI, in line with a federal database maintained by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Well being Inspection Service. 9 of these 207 people are bears, together with 4 black bears, three grizzlies, one Kodiak bear, and the most recent polar bear.

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