Western Minnesota hawk found with avian flu

A Cooper's hawk in Yellow Medicine County is the first Minnesota wild bird to test positive for the avian influenza virus infecting turkey farms across the state, officials said Thursday.

The Department of Natural Resources collected the hawk during the agency's surveillance of wild birds tied to flu outbreaks at domestic turkey farms.

"This bird tells us our surveillance is working, but it unfortunately doesn't provide many other clues about transmission of the virus," Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager, said in a statement Thursday.

He said the hawk discovery does not indicate the virus in wild birds is the direct cause of Minnesota's current domestic poultry infections and the DNR is not aware of any recent raptor die-offs.

Yellow Medicine County does not have any infected poultry farms, but nearby Lyon County does.

A homeowner near St. Leo, Minn., reported April 14 that the hawk flew into the home's deck and died, according to the DNR.

Staffers sent the adult female hawk for testing. The National Veterinary Service Laboratory in Ames, Iowa confirmed the hawk held the H5N2 virus that is infecting poultry farms, the DNR added.

A positive test from a dead raptor only means the bird was exposed, not that the virus killed it or that the bird spread the virus to other birds, the DNR added. Wild turkeys, raptors and other wild birds likely are not at risk of a mass die-off because they are widely dispersed, officials said.

The DNR said it's collected 29 dead birds of varying species; nine have tested negative for the virus and 20 results are pending.

Test results also are pending on the 37 samples from wild turkeys killed by hunters.

The agency has collected 2,749 waterfowl fecal samples and more than 2,200 have tested negative. Results for the rest are pending.