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Bird flu on the rise as waterfowl hunting season begins

North Dakota Game and Fish wants everyone who notices flocks with symptoms of bird flu to fill out a wildlife mortality report to help track the spread.

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FARGO — Another case of avian influenza is confirmed in Ransom County.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is asking hunters to help prevent the spread of the deadly disease that is decimating flocks across the region.

The latest case of bird flu is impacting thousands of turkeys and chickens in commercial operation in Ransom County. Since the bird flu was first detected, nearly 168,000 turkeys and chickens have been euthanized. The birds were from four commercial flocks and 14 backyard flocks.

In Minnesota, nearly 3.7 million turkeys and chickens from 72 commercial flocks and 25 backyard flocks have been euthanized.

Biologist Doug Leier says North Dakota Game and Fish has already received dozens of reports of avian influenza throughout the state since the hunting season began.

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Avian influenza, or bird flu, is transmitted by air across all types of birds. Leier says if hunters notice sick birds, an abundance of dead birds (that haven't been shot), or birds just falling out of the sky, they should fill out a wildlife mortality report online.

"People that are just going out into the field or traveling, whether they are traveling to a football game or going on a trip you may see sick birds, may see dead birds. You may see birds drop from the sky, and we have a report form that you can make online ," he said.

The report goes directly to the department and will help them track the spread throughout the state. He says that is faster than calling them directly.

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For people who are unsure if their harvested birds have the flu, there are ways to keep them from further spreading the disease.

"Reduce direct conduct between yourself, your hands and any kind of wild game," Leier said. "If you can use rubber gloves, that would be one of the best situations to protect yourself, potentially. Again, nothing is 100%.

According to the Department of Agriculture, humans cannot get avian influenza by eating properly cooked poultry or eggs.

The wildlife mortality report can be filled out at this website.

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