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Avian flu: Skunks found dead in B.C.’s Lower Mainland positive for H5N1

Eight skunks that died in Vancouver and Richmond last month tested positive for the same type of bird flu that has decimated B.C. over the past year. some poultry farms.

Wildlife rescue workers were initially concerned that the skunks had been deliberately poisoned, but the Department of Agriculture and Food confirmed on Monday that the animals were infected with H5N1.

“It is possible that skunks contracted the flu by scavenging infected wild birds,” the ministry wrote in an information bulletin.

Bird flu outbreaks have affected millions of birds in Canada since April 2022, forcing some farmers to cull entire flocks to stop the spread. BC has recorded more farm outbreaks than anywhere else in Canada.

According to the state, the disease has infected more than 20 species of wild birds, plus two skunks and one fox found in rural areas.

In February, CTV News reported a nine skunks in total Humans suffering from apparent poisoning were found in BC’s Lower Mainland and taken to Critter Care Wildlife Society in Langley, where staff were unable to treat them.

Some of the animals were dead when they arrived, while others were suffering from symptoms ranging from breathing problems to seizures.

“Something is wrong,” Leslie Fox of the advocacy group The Fur-Bearers said at the time. “I’ve never seen anything like it in all my time at The Fur-Bearers.”

Officials have urged anyone who comes across a dead skunk in Vancouver or Richmond to move away from the carcass and contact BC Wildlife Health.

“Although skunk flu is considered a low risk to human health, there are always risks when people and pets come into contact with sick or dead wild animals, including skunks and birds,” the ministry said.

The BC Wildlife Health Program can be contacted at 250-751-7246.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s St John Alexander

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