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The Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently euthanized pheasants at a bird farm near Sheridan

pheasant
Steven Feather
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Flickr via CC BY 2.0

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently euthanized 1,200 pheasants at one of their bird farms near Sheridan as a precautionary measure with the aim of preventing the spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza. This comes after the birds were exposed to wild turkeys who tested positive for the virus.

“This highly pathogenic avian influenza affects sort of larger birds, and so that would be birds the size of pheasants,” said Sara DiRienzo, a spokeswoman for the Game and Fish. “And so, it was definitely a big risk to us that those pheasants could have been exposed to avian influenza.”

She said larger birds such as magpies, wild turkeys, and owls have been testing positive throughout the state this year and that the spread of the virus across North America is due to the spring migration patterns of birds. The department is closely following the situation and how it’s affecting the wild bird population in Wyoming.

“Game and Fish [Department] felt really strongly that we had to act swiftly to protect our bird stock and the impacts that the disease could have on our pheasant-stocking program overall is the reason we made the decision to depopulate,” she continued.

DiRienzo said that together with their Sheridan operation, they raise approximately 40,000 pheasants every year to be stocked at their wildlife habitat management and walk-in hunting areas across the state. Game and Fish officials will wait until migration is over before hatching new pheasants at the Sheridan facility.

Though prevalent in birds, the virus can be transmitted to humans but it is a rare occurrence.

“Highly pathogenic avian influenza, that’s a zoonotic disease, so that does mean that humans can contract it, which is why we’ve been reminding the public not to touch or handle sick birds and not allow domestic animals like our dogs and cats to feed on any sick or dead birds that people may find,” she said.

The euthanized pheasants were buried as an additional precaution. Currently, the CDC says it doesn’t present a public health concern.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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