In early April, Erica Zulke, a Michigan wildlife rehabilitator, received two sets of foxes from Macomb County. They had a fever and had epilepsy. One died quickly.
Zukhlke probably thinks that these secondary rodents ate their mother a poisoned rodent.
About two weeks later, a fox kit from St. Lebed. Claire County had similar symptoms. The next day he saw the fourth case, this time from Lapir County. He could not save them either.
“That’s when I started asking what was going on here,” said Zukhlke, who in 2018 founded the non-profit organization Critter Crossing Rehabilitation in Attica, east of Lapier.
In a short time he got three dead foxes from a completely different place.
“At the time, I had a brain drain:‘ Okay, what if it’s related to the current avian flu pandemic?
His suspicions were recently confirmed.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has donated three sets of red foxes to the Michigan State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for “testing for highly pathogenic avian influenza.”
All three sets of foxes were identified as “not negative,” said Ed Golder, a DNR social media officer. On Wednesday, May 11, the National Veterinary Service Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed they were positive.
The virus was found in tampons collected from the nose, mouth, throat and brain tissue of all three sets, and a full post-mortem examination was conducted to help foxes learn more about the disease, the DNR said.
These were the first cases of avian influenza among wild mammals in Michigan, but there were other cases in North America. The Minnesota DNR said on Wednesday, May 11, that the wild fox was tested positive there. The flu also killed a pair of young foxes in Ontario, Canada. They showed a positive result on May 2. The body of one of the kits was found, and the other had severe neurological symptoms before dying at the rehabilitation center, DNR reported.
Last year, there were reports of foxes in the Netherlands.
“HPAI H5N1 viruses can sometimes be transmitted from birds to mammals, as in these cases, and may be found in other mammals during this epidemic, but they may be isolated,” said Megan Moriarty, a state wildlife veterinarian with the DNR. , the statement said.
“It is unknown at this time how the fox kits became infected, but they may have been infected by eating infected birds, such as waterfowl.”
This year’s HPAI strain has been more aggressive, killing more domestic and wild birds than the previous strain in 2015, the Minnesota DNR said.
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To slow or prevent the spread of Michigan, the state suspended bird and waterfowl exhibitions at fairs and other events this week.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said Wednesday that the first cases of bird flu occurred during a commercial poultry operation.
According to the federal and state Department of Agriculture, twelve nonprofit herds in nine counties in Michigan affected 870 birds.
According to the DNR, Michigan confirmed 69 cases among wild birds. These included geese, eagles, white owls, ducks, white swans, and others in Canada.
Influenza spreads rapidly and is almost always fatal in some domestic species such as chickens, the DNR reports. Wild birds may be asymptomatic, but still carry the disease, sometimes over long distances during migration.
Zukhlke, a licensed veterinary technician, was an animal control officer in Lapir County during the day, separating foxes and stopping other animals.
According to him, the condition is unknown, but in some cases the mothers of well-lit kits ate infected ducks. At one point he saw scattered feathers, and at another he reported that he had seen a fox carrying dead ducks. Sick or weak birds can be easy prey, Zukhlke said.
The foxes came to Zuhlke through owners who knew how to take care of livestock in their yards. They found the whereabouts of the kits or confiscated their belongings.
All but one of the sets died within 12 or less hours under Zuhlke’s control. He gave anticonvulsant drugs to control their seizures, but did not cure avian influenza.
“Seeing any animal suffer like this is definitely devastating,” he said.
Zukhlke called the surviving set “Left” because he first marked his left ear with nail polish to distinguish it from his brother. At first, the fox could not move, but over time, his mobility and neurological function returned.
Zuhlke’s goal was always to save, restore and liberate the animals he raised, who were careful not to remain isolated and alienated. It helps children of raccoons and opossums who have been neglected or orphaned, and adults who are sick or injured.
“These animals have to live in the wild and there is nothing wrong with them, but the wild is inhumane,” Zukhlke said.
But when the fox swam over the walls and obstacles, he realized that the flu had left Left completely blind and could not let him go. He makes good use of the rest of his emotions and should be taken prisoner as an “education ambassador” at the Howell Nature Center, Zukhlke said.
Zuhlke said it was good to know why and to confirm his seemingly insane theory. “Restoring wildlife is a constantly moving puzzle … There’s a depth here and it’s a very scary feeling not to explain why some deaths happen.”
Zuhlke does not understand what this means for other animals.
“But I hope it helps people like government agencies and other rehabilitators think about the potential of the disease’s crossover and be careful.”
Public health risks associated with HPAI remain low, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to avoid catching sick or dead wild birds. If it is necessary to move a dead bird, use a plastic bag or shovel, and wash your hands thoroughly.
Experts advise not to come into contact with wild animals that appear to be sick or injured.
Zukhlke warned people not to intervene unless the animal appeared to be injured or sick. Just finding a baby is not a cause for concern – wild animals do not abandon their babies.
Anyone who notices unusual or unexplained deaths among wild birds or sick, dead, or neurologically abnormal foxes is requested to report to the following addresses:
- Call DNR Wildlife Laboratory at 517-336-5030.
- Call your local DNR field office to talk to a field biologist.
- Using DNR eyes in the Field application. Select the “Sick Wild Animals” reporting option.
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