Three juvenile grizzly bears in Montana were euthanized this past fall after becoming the first of their species to test positive for an especially contagious and deadly type of avian flu.
All three grizzlies, each in separate places, tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks announced the deaths on Tuesday. The bears “were observed to be in poor condition and exhibited disorientation and partial blindness, among other neurological issues,” according to the agency.
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One bear was near Augusta, one was near Dupuyer and one was near Kalispell. The agency did not specify exactly when the bears were tested or killed. The department noted that a fox and skunk in Montana tested positive for HPAI last year; elsewhere, the virus has been found in raccoons, black bears and a coyote.
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“We suspect these mammals probably get the virus from consuming infected birds,” FWP Wildlife Veterinarian Jennifer Ramsey said in announcing the infections.
The U.S. has been in the grips of an HPAI outbreak since March 2022. Last month, state officials said the illness had so far killed 56 million