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Idaho Falls Zoo takes proactive measures for avian influenza outbreak


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The following is a news release from the city of Idaho Falls. Photo courtesy Tabitha Lauré Jenkins

With the regional prevalence of the HPAI H5N1 Avian Influenza, commonly known as Bird Flu, the Idaho Falls Zoo is taking extra steps to protect zoo birds.

The potentially deadly and contagious virus poses a real concern for the health of the zoo’s avian collection. The virus is primarily spread by wild birds traveling through the area. As a preventive measure, the zoo removed the feeder machine by the pond to deter wild birds from visiting. The zoo has also temporarily relocated a few birds, mainly waterfowl, into covered habitats around the zoo or off exhibit. The Penguin Interaction Program is postponed until further notice.

“The health and safety of all of our animals of the Idaho Falls Zoo remain our top priority,” said Idaho Falls Zoo Director David Pennock. “We are actively working on a multi-phase response plan for this HPAI outbreak. We want to be as prepared as possible as the virus inches closer to the zoo.”

This new strain of the bird flu virus emerged in Europe in late 2020 but has recently made its way to commercial and backyard poultry collections in the United States. As of April 2022, HPAI has been detected in 31 states, including Idaho.

While the virus is considered very low risk to humans, containment and prevention quickly became a priority for zoo and animal collection managers. As a result, in addition to changes in bird locations, the zoo is limiting intern and volunteer contact at certain exhibits.

“We are basing this plan on other zoos’ responses and the statistics surrounding the virus’ spread,” Pennock said. Our current response is meant to be proactive and we are working hard to keep our collection safe.”

The zoo will continue to monitor the status of the avian flu in our area. Animals at the zoo also have access to a veterinarian who checks their welfare consistently.