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Breeder pheasant flock at game farm in Tompkins de-populated due to bird flu outbreak

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has de-populated a breeder flock of 6,600 pheasants at a game farm in Tompkins County due to a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak. The DEC confirmed that at least 500 pheasants died in a week due to the H5N1 avian influenza virus before the de-population occurred.

According to the DEC, the remaining breeder flock was de-populated in line with standard HPAI response protocols to prevent the virus’s spread. The de-population ensures that birds from the flock do not enter the food system and help contain the virus.

The DEC began investigating bird deaths on the farm on March 20 and placed it under quarantine on March 21. Initial tests from Cornell Wildlife Health Lab indicated H5N1 as the suspected cause of death. On March 23, the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed the outbreak through further testing.

The H5N1 bird flu, first detected in US bird populations in early 2022, has affected wild birds, commercial poultry farms, and backyard flocks across the country. It is responsible for an “alarming rate” of bald eagle deaths and nest failures, and in New York, bald eagles with the virus have been found in at least 12 counties.

According to the USDA, mammals such as red foxes and striped skunks have also been infected in Tompkins and Cayuga counties.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that recent HPAI detections in birds do not pose an immediate public health concern, HPAI cases in humans are rare.