In early March 2006 the Federal agencies announced their bird sampling activity for the summer. An immediate question from the communities here was—what to do with dead birds? (If the birds are dead from a highly pathogenic virus, no one wants to leave them on the tundra, right?) The BrdFlu [sic] Hotline did not then have an answer, except that the carcasses should be disposed of. “Do you mean fling them away?” (We are off the road system. There are no sanitary landfills. Dead birds will be found away from Villages and who wants to bring them home to throw in the dump?) The hot line was going to get back to me with a consensus.

In the meantime, down below is what other areas have suggested. These suggestions (double- bagging) are mostly for areas with few occurrences of multiple dead birds and with access to landfills. The state of Alaska suggestions are for poultry farms. I still don’t know enough to provide suggestions. Here are some things to consider (keep in mind the idea is to lessen risk)—

  • Avian flu (various types) is common in wild birds, especially our waterfowl. Most birds do not die from it.
  • Other viruses and bacteria are more likely to affect human health.
  • Microbes are excreted by the birds into ponds and waterways that people cross.
  • Decomposition is s-l-o-w in our region. Carcasses are usually scavenged by other birds, foxes, dogs, even deer (at least in Scotland) and maybe seals.
  • Generally there isn’t any soil or earth to bury garbage in and no rocks or logs to build vermin-proof cairns.
  • Plastic bags entangle wildlife and may even kill and sicken more wildlife than the carcasses would.
  • Drenching or soaking in disinfectant (see here for directions) might work, but then what impacts will these chemicals have on the local environment?
  • At the very least, DO NOT BURN. While heat and dryness will kill the H5N1 virus, it is unlikely one could burn carcasses fast/clean enough so one would not breathe in the live virus.

Any other suggestions? Any other questions to ask so we could figure out a plan of action for ourselves?

Be sure to read the post about raw meat which I will post later (do not feed to dogs, either the post or the uncooked meat).

By SHEILA RHOADES Friday, May 19, 2006 10:34 PM EDT

With West Nile virus and now the threat of a global bird flu, the Wabash County Health Department has released some instruction on what to do if you find a dead bird….

Wild birds die for a variety of reasons, but most wild bird deaths have no impact on human health. A natural death is considered to be the death of a bird due to a naturally short life span, severe weather, predators and competition between species.

An accidental death could be an impact with power lines, or colliding into aircraft, windows or buildings.

Death can also be caused by either legal or illegal pest control, accidental pesticide exposure, environmental contamination from chemical or other spills, leaks or releases.

Spoiled grain crop residues are a primary food source for many wild birds. But bacteria, fungi and molds can grow on crop residues left in the field and some of the organisms can cause death.

Dirty bird feeders can also be to blame for some wild bird deaths. The same organisms found in spoiled crop residues can also be found in backyard bird feeders if not kept clean.

Most wild bird diseases present no threat to human health. However, there are two wild bird-related diseases Hoosiers are most worried about… West Nile virus and the avian flu….

This is general advice if one finds a dead bird which must be removed—
Dead wild birds should not be handled with bare hands. If necessary to dispose of a dead bird, use gloves or a plastic bag turned inside out over your hand to pick up the bird. Fold the bag over the carcass. Place into a second bag. Either bury it or dispose of it in the trash. local_news/local1.txt

For Alaska—this guidance is for poultry farmers and is in pdf format.

Recommended Disposal:

The intent in disposing of diseased carcasses is to limit the spread of the disease and to destroy the disease agent. The most protective disposal methods do both. The State of Wisconsin has proposed four tiers of disposal methods (Tier 1 being the most protective) with recommended on-site measures that include alkaline tissue digestion, high temperature controlled incineration, and dedicated on-site landfilling. Alaska does not have any large-scale poultry operations that would call for corresponding large-scale disposal measures. Since there are less [sic] than 20 small scale (600-1000 birds) commercial growers and an undetermined amount of private “backyard” bird owners, on-site burial is the most protective measure since it it does not require the transportation of infected birds and materials off the site, thereby limiting the possible spread of disease. However, the State Solid Waste Program has no regulatory authority to require private landowners to bury carcasses on their property. Private landowners may be hesitant to dispose of carcasses on their property, and may have to temporarily store carcasses pending arrival of equipment to excavate a burial pit. Whether carcasses are disposed on site or transported off-site for disposal, proper containment of carcasses and the availability and proper use of personal protective equipment are paramount for protection of public health. With these issues in mind, the following disposal options are offered in priority order….

Read the rest here (pdf file)