The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will be setting up field testing stations across seven counties in the state in time for the opening of the waterfowl season, encouraging duck hunters to participate to facilitate avian flu tracking.

No cases of avian flu have been reported in geese or duck in Minnesota since the outbreak began in March and the state's Department of Health has reiterated that hunters shouldn't have food safety concerns. The field testing stations will be set up in the counties of Todd, Swift, Stearns, Pope, Morrison, Meeker and Kandiyohi, where DNR staff will handle volunteer sampling from duck hunters, which will require no more than a swab from every bird. Specifically, crews will be stationed at:

  • Quistoff Wildlife Management Area
  • Kobliska WMA boat access on Long Lake
  • Big Rice Lake public boat access
  • Rice-Skunk WMA
  • Yarmon WMA
  • Lake Calhoun public access/Dietrich Lange WMA
  • Mud Lake water access site
  • Middle Fork Crow River
  • Lake Osakis
  • Other hunting grounds around Lake Lillian, Greenwald, Sunberg, Pennock and Spicer

For the first two weeks of the season, the DNR is targeting to sample 800 birds from voluntary testing. The agency has conducted similar surveillance in previous years and can't stress enough how essential hunter participation is to the success of the effort.

"These efforts will help us determine the prevalence of avian influenza in ducks," said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the DNR, adding gathered information will be shared with agricultural and wildlife management organizations and agencies.

The voluntary testing is a joint effort involving the DNR, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. Since the start of the outbreak, the DNR has only found two cases of highly pathogenic avian flu in the state: a black-capped chickadee and a Cooper's hawk from the Ramsey and Yellow Medicine Counties, respectively.

Again, there are no food safety concerns to worry about, even if a bird tests positive for avian flu, so hunters can take their birds home immediately. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would like to remind anyone cooking whole goose or duck to adhere to a safe internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Aside from samples from their birds, duck hunters will not be asked to provide identifying or demographic information at the field stations.

Photo: USFWS Mountain Prairie | Flickr

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