Three grizzly bears infected with a highly contagious strain of BIRD FLU in Montana are euthanized

Three young grizzly bears have been euthanized after they were found to be suffering from a highly contagious strain of bird flu after eating infected animals in Montana.

The state’s Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) said the bears were found near the towns of Augusta, Dupuyer and Kalispell, which surround the Flathead National Forest.

All three bears were in poor condition and showed signs of disorientation and partial blindness, among other neurological problems.

The FWP said the animals were culled, noting that these were the first cases of the highly pathogenic avian flu virus documented in grizzly bears.

That comes as the especially contagious strain of bird flu continues to ravage the US, with more than 43 million chickens killed by the virus, sending egg prices soaring.

Three young grizzly bears were euthanized when they were discovered to have contracted the highly pathogenic bird flu virus in Montana

Three young grizzly bears were euthanized when they were discovered to have contracted the highly pathogenic bird flu virus in Montana

All three bears were in poor condition and showed signs of disorientation and partial blindness.  It was the first time the virus had been reported in grizzly bears.  Pictured: A large grizzly bear roaming in Bozeman, Montana

All three bears were in poor condition and showed signs of disorientation and partial blindness. It was the first time the virus had been reported in grizzly bears. Pictured: A large grizzly bear roaming in Bozeman, Montana

The FWP said the brown bears were likely infected after eating birds carrying the virus.

While there have been previous reports of black and brown bears being infected with avian flu, this was the first case involving brown bears.

The FWP noted that last year, when the new, highly infectious strain of bird flu hit the country, a fox and a skunk tested positive for the virus, with other predators like raccoons and coyotes also catching it across the country.

Although bird flu typically peaks in the spring, the illness has persisted through 2023 and is currently active in all 50 states.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 57 million domestic poultry in the United States had been infected with the virus as of January 11th. It killed the vast majority of infected birds.

Although the risk of humans catching the virus is relatively low, avian flu can infect those who work directly with infected livestock. The CDC recorded only one case of a person with avian flu last year.

In people, the disease can cause fever, cough, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, eye infections, and difficulty breathing.

In bears and other wild mammals, the virus causes neurological problems such as seizures.

Although the virus rarely affects humans, people are feeling the impact of avian flu on their wallets.

The national average price for a dozen eggs reached $3.59 in November, up from $1.72 a year earlier, the latest government data show.

The national average price for a dozen eggs reached $3.59 in November, up from $1.72 a year earlier, the latest government data show.

Red Star chickens feed in their coop on Tuesday at Historic Wagner Farm in Glenview, Illinois.  Over 43 million laying hens were culled last year to contain bird flu

Red Star chickens feed in their coop on Tuesday at Historic Wagner Farm in Glenview, Illinois. Over 43 million laying hens were culled last year to contain bird flu

The national average price for a dozen eggs reached $3.59 in November, up from $1.72 a year earlier, the latest government data show. Prices have probably gone up even more since then.

The persistent avian flu outbreak, combined with rising feed, fuel and labor costs, has more than doubled egg prices and generated many label shocks for consumers.

If prices stay this high, Kelly Fischer, 46, said she will start thinking more seriously about building a backyard chicken coop in Chicago, because everyone in her family eats eggs.

‘We (with the neighbors) are thinking about building a chicken coop behind our houses, so eventually I hope I don’t buy them and have my own eggs and I think the cost goes into that a little bit’, said the public school teacher while shopped at HarvesTime Foods in the North Zone of the city.

‘For me, it’s more the environmental impact and trying to buy locally.’

A shopper checks eggs before purchasing them at a grocery store in Glenview, Illinois, on Tuesday.  Anyone buying a dozen eggs these days will have to prepare for rising prices.

A shopper checks eggs before purchasing them at a grocery store in Glenview, Illinois, on Tuesday. Anyone buying a dozen eggs these days will have to prepare for rising prices.

In some places, eggs can be hard to find on shelves, but overall egg supplies are holding up because the total flock is only about 5% below its normal size of around 320 million hens.

Farmers have been working to replace their herds as quickly as possible after an outbreak.

Jada Thomson, an agricultural economist at the University of Arkansas, said there could be some easing in egg prices in the coming months because egg producers have been steadily replacing herds lost to avian flu over the past year and demand will ease slightly now that people are done with the holiday baking.

But she said bird flu remains a wild card that could still drive prices higher if there are larger outbreaks at egg farms.

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