Bobcat tests positive for avian influenza

MONTPELIER—A bobcat and two red-tailed hawks found dead in Cornwall, Vermont, have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus infection, according to preliminary lab results shared with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department on February 15, 2024.   

The department is now awaiting the results of a confirmatory second test, which may take several weeks to receive.   HPAI has been circulating in Vermont since 2022 and has been reported in wild birds including hawks and eagles as well as domestic fowl. 

The bobcat that tested positive this month is the first detection of HPAI virus in a mammal from Vermont.  HPAI is uncommon in mammals, however, there have been HPAI detections in mammals in many other states including Connecticut, Maine, and New York.  

Although mammals infected with HPAI are always of interest to wildlife officials, the risk to people from HPAI viruses remains low according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

“Our recommendations to Vermonters are the same as they’ve been since HPAI was first detected in our state—mainly, to avoid direct contact with wild birds,” said David Sausville, Wildlife Management Program Manager with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.  “Observe wild birds only from a distance and practice good hygiene around domestic fowl.  Practice good biosecurity by keeping domestic fowl and other pets away from areas where wild birds gather, like bird feeding stations or duck ponds.”  

Officials will continue to monitor bird and other wildlife deaths that show signs consistent with possible HPAI infection.  More information on best practices around wild birds are available on the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department’s website.  More information for domestic fowl owners is available from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.

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