The DNR received confirmation May 11 that three red fox kits died from highly pathogenic avian influenza, the state’s first confirmation of the HPAI virus in wild mammals. The fox kits, collected between April 1 and April 14, came from three separate dens in Lapeer, Macomb and St. Clair counties.
A wildlife rehabilitator in southeastern Michigan reported fox kits exhibiting neurologic signs of HPAI before death. The kits were observed circling, tremoring and seizing. Two of the three died within hours of intake, while one appeared to respond to supportive therapy but died in care. An additional kit sibling survived but developed blindness. This kit will be housed at a local nature center.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza is a virus known to affect birds throughout North America, with detections in backyard flocks and commercial poultry facilities, to date, in 34 states and detections in wild birds in 35 states. HPAI is highly contagious and poultry are especially vulnerable. In addition, this viral strain also affects waterfowl, raptors and scavengers like turkey vultures, eagles and crows.
In Michigan, HPAI has been confirmed in 69 wild birds, with the outbreak continuing to spread throughout North America. To follow the current status of HPAI in Michigan click here.
Avian influenza updates can be found here.
The three fox kits were sampled for HPAI at the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab and submitted to the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for testing. All three kits tested “non-negative” (presumptive positive) on May 6 and were confirmed positive by the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa on May 11. The virus was detected in swabs collected from the nose, mouth, throat and brain tissue of all three kits, and a full postmortem examination was conducted to aid in learning more about this disease in foxes.
The DNR Wildlife Division continues to collaborate with many partners within the state and across agencies to share findings. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on May 11 reported that state’s first confirmed case of HPAI in a wild mammal, a wild fox kit from Anoka County.
Anyone who notices what appears to be unusual or unexplained deaths among wild birds or sick, dead or neurologically abnormal foxes is asked to report the information to the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory by calling (517)336-5030 or contacting a field biologist at a local DNR field office.
Residents can also use the DNR Eyes in the Field app and select the “diseased wildlife” reporting option.