- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2005

With duck and goose hunting seasons under way or about to restart, waterfowl hunters in North America need not worry about the dangerous strain of avian flu, says Dr. Robert G. Webster, the World Health Organization’s influenza authority.

“There is no more problem hunting ducks this year than any other year,” Webster says, pointing out no evidence of the Asian H.C. virus has been found in North America.

Biologists with Ducks Unlimited recently met with Webster to learn from the flu expert and to coordinate the international hunter/conservationist organization’s message with that of the WHO to provide the best information to the waterfowl hunting community and general public.

Webster is the director of the WHO Collaborating Center on the Ecology of Influenza Viruses in Lower Animals and Birds at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and an internationally recognized leading authority on influenza.

The virulent strain of H5N1 avian flu that made headlines worldwide established itself in several Asian countries and most recently was found in Eastern Europe. It is especially deadly to domestic poultry and fowl, and authorities have killed millions of these birds throughout Asia in an attempt to control the spread of the virus.



WHO says it is rare for this type of flu to infect humans, although it has happened. DU points out the human cases in Asia represent an unusual event in which humans contracted the flu directly from domestic birds. Unfortunately, unwarranted fears and concerns about the Asian strain of H5N1 avian influenza are causing some overreactions.

DU has heard of individuals canceling duck hunting trips or deciding not to hunt waterfowl this season because of concerns about the avian flu, but it urges a bit of common sense on the issue. DU adds it will continue to work with Webster, as well as authorities and agencies that are actively monitoring the situation.

“We’ll provide updates [relating to] wildlife, duck hunters and other outdoorsmen as relevant, new information is produced,” DU says.

Hunters are encouraged to heed the standard precautions offered by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center for wildlife-related diseases:

(1) Do not handle birds that are obviously sick or found dead.

(2) Keep your game birds cool, clean and dry.

(3) Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning birds.

(4) Use disposable, surgical latex gloves when cleaning game and properly dispose of them when done.

(5) Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes after dressing birds.

(6) Clean all tools and surfaces immediately afterward. Use hot soapy water, then disinfect with a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution.

Meanwhile, it is OK to eat a duck or goose. The standard recommendation for ensuring wild game is safe is to cook all types of meat thoroughly (155-165 degrees Fahrenheit) to kill disease and parasites.

Bear hunters score — After counting the black bears bagged by Pennsylvania hunters during the state’s Nov. 21-23 season, the state’s Game Commission recorded the largest preliminary harvest total in the Commonwealth: 2,875 bears.

The top 12 bears shot were estimated to weigh more than 600 pounds. The largest was a 747-pound male taken by Rory L. Haine of Grugan Township in Clinton County.

However, all did not go well for the bear hunters. A Cumberland County man was injured by a 320-pound-plus black bear he had shot when he walked up to the downed animal, believing it to be dead. It wasn’t.

Samuel H. Beauchamp, 47, of Newville, was swiped by the injured bear’s paw and bitten twice during the encounter, which occurred in Huntingdon County’s Rothrock State Forest on Nov. 21. After striking and biting Beauchamp, the animal died. The hunter was taken to a hospital, treated and released.

Game Commission bear biologist Mark Tement said such incidents are exceptionally rare and can be avoided if hunters keep their distance from a downed bear while determining its status.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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