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Red River Zoo takes birds off public display after avian flu detected in Cass County

In North Dakota, avian flu has been found in a Cass County backyard flock, two commercial turkey/chicken flocks in LaMoure County, a commercial turkey flock and backyard chicken flock in Dickey County, and a backyard flock in Kidder County.

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Red River Zoo employees in Fargo take birds to indoor holding spaces to protect them from avian influenza that was detected in a backyard flock in Cass County on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.
Special to The Forum

FARGO — The presence of avian influenza in a flock of birds in Cass County has prompted the Red River Zoo here to take its most serious biosecurity measures yet to keep its birds safe.

The Cass County infection was confirmed in a "backyard mixed flock" on Tuesday, April 5, according to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture . The types of birds were not specified, nor was the exact location released, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it was a "non-poultry" flock of 105 birds.

Along with the Cass County flock, avian flu has also been detected in North Dakota in two commercial turkey/chicken flocks in LaMoure County, a commercial turkey flock and backyard chicken flock in Dickey County, and a backyard flock in Kidder County.

In Minnesota, the nearest reported incidence of highly pathogenic avian influenza was in Becker County on April 3 involving a commercial turkey flock of 45,000 birds.

Due to the outbreak of avian influenza, Minnesota and North Dakota officials have banned poultry sales and exhibitions.

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The virus, known as H5N1, has not caused human illness, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.
The discovery of avian influenza in Cass County spurred the Red River Zoo to safeguard its remaining birds that were still on public display.

Executive Director Sally Jacobson said employees moved all chickens and waterfowl to indoor spaces about a month ago when cases of avian influenza drew closer.

On Wednesday, the zoo moved the remainder of its 32 total birds, including cranes, eagles and ravens, to off-exhibit holding areas or other emergency spaces.
Jacobson said it's likely the waterfowl and chickens will remain off-exhibit through the summer due to the threat.

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A Mille Fleur hen is viewable behind glass Thursday, April 7, 2022, at the Red River Zoo in Fargo to keep it safe from contracting avian flu.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

The zoo is using additional measures to reduce exposure to other wild birds. "We try to discourage wild geese and ducks from nesting on zoo property, but with 32 acres, it’s challenging," Jacobson said.

They have drained most ponds on the property and installed decoys that look like natural predators, including 3-D eagle kites hoisted on poles. The zoo has also deployed about 100 metallic-looking pinwheels to deter other birds.

There is a limit on service vehicles coming into the zoo, and in some cases, they are sprayed down to reduce transmission of any diseases, Jacobson said. If a bird dies on zoo property, it will be tested for avian influenza.

Having birds in new, indoor environments will require "enrichment" activities for their mental well-being, Jacobson said.

A crane is placed on a scale during a veterinary checkup at the Red River Zoo.
The Red River Zoo moved many of its birds, including cranes, indoors on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, due to the threat of avian influenza. A white-naped crane named Stanley also had a routine veterinary examination at the zoo.
Special to The Forum

Huebner is a 35+ year veteran of broadcast and print journalism in Fargo-Moorhead.
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