Important: HPAI -Avian Influenza & Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in Florida and has been found on the coastal regions close to Back to Nature! At this time Back to Nature WILL NOT be accepting any water birds, wading birds, shore birds, birds of prey (hawks, owls, eagles etc.) or crows for now. Please DO NOT pick up or transport these animals to BTN and please call ahead for any songbirds as we will try to evaluate and accept what we can without compromising the safety of BTN’s Ambassador animals and our staff and volunteers or you. Please contact Audubon Center for Birds of Prey or the Avian Reconditioning Center directly about birds of prey locally in our area for further instructions as to what they will accept and they will NOT be able to be transported to them by BTN regardless. Please DO NOT touch or transport any coastal birds inland to any rehabbers and contact FWC for further instructions.
What do you watch for? They are mainly neurological and can range from then hanging neck back, head bobbing, thrashing around, swimming in circles, alert but cannot stand or get up and seizuring to name a few clinical signs being seen consistently. BTN’s position to accept or not accept wildlife could change quickly if the HPAI situation changes, so please call ahead 407-568-5138 or text Boni 954-415-8948 before bringing any wildlife to BTN. From what we know, it is transmitted through bird feces and can also become aerosolized and is highly transmissible.
Please exercise extreme caution at this time and protect yourself with PPE, personal protective equipment around any sick or injured wildlife and contact FWC about sick birds. It is best not to handle or transport sick birds and be extremely cautious if you have your own pet birds and do not take them on outings or let them co mingle with birds outside your households. Sanitize your outside feeders and waterers often to help minimize possible spreading. Remember to change and wash your clothes and sanitize your shoes also in these situations. If this situation worsens, there is serious concern of it jumping species to include mammals, so doing our part now will hopefully minimize this risk possibility.
We hope that this situation will be able to be consistently monitored and with diligence this will not become further widespread, but the truth is that the entire state of Florida is at risk of HPAI infecting any bird in or that comes through our state, including migratory and pet birds. Be aware that any of these animals picked up by Animal Services agencies may likely be euthanized at the discretion of their individual departmental policy and supervisory staff to minimize the risk of spreading HPAI or compromising the safety of their officers and the other animals in their care. Please know that at this time BTN has not had any suspected cases so far and currently no known human cases of infection have been found in the US.
This will certainly be an additional financial burden on BTN and every facility as we will have to continue investing in consistent PPE and the proper materials for testing as well as the costs associated with testing at the state lab as possible. Donations to help offset these extra costs are extremely appreciated. You can donate here: www.btnwildlife.org/donate.
FWC is providing updated information including species affected and counties in FL positive at the FWC website https://myfwc.com/research/wildlife/health/avian/influenza/.