Montana recently announced that three grizzlies were killed following confirmation that they had contracted bird flu. Bird flu is most likely passed by consumption of an infected carcass, the organism can live up to 48 hours on surfaces and much longer on organic materials such as feathers. Interestingly, while avian flu is almost immediately fatal in birds, many mammals have actually survived after contracting it, although the risk of it spreading through wild populations is extremely serious and the resilience of the virus makes it a global threat to both wild and domestic birds.
Colorado this week added to the data verifying the spread of avian flu to wild mammals in that state. As of November 2023, the US had recorded a record number of cases in wild birds and domestic poultry. State wildlife agencies are now beginning to look at avian flu as a cause of unexplained illness or mortality in other wild species. We know what a devastating effect widespread infection can have on birds, we need to have a concerted approach from the states and federal agencies to the impacts of avian flu on other wildlife as well.