Early in 2022 Medicine River Wildlife Centre, along with other facilities in Alberta, received protocol guidelines from Canadian Wildlife Service should avian flu arrive in the province. We felt prepared but did not expect the virus to hit quite as hard as it did.
We are very grateful however, for the advance notice and that our new facility is equipped with a fully dedicated quarantine room. Other facilities in the province were not as lucky, either reducing the patients that they would accept, or in a couple of cases, simply stopping admitting certain species altogether.
It was a fairly steep learning curve to be able to understand, diagnose, and treat avian flu but staff at MRWC experienced a fairly smooth and safe transition to the new protocols. The results to date have been more devastating than many realize and MRWC staff are looking forward to seeing official statistics when the year is over. What we are seeing now in our wildlife hospital is a sharp decline in admittance of ducklings, goslings, and also birds of prey. A hungry raptor would happily scavenge from dead ducks and geese or bring the treasures back to their young in the nest. Entire families have been wiped out and the majority of owl and eagle nests that our staff have been monitoring have gone silent. Our large raptor intensive care room would normally be incredibly full and busy this time of year but currently, is completely empty.
Wildlife however, are amazingly resilient and we look forward to information on whether they develop an immunity to this virus. We also know that when numbers of wildlife decline, as long as there is a good food supply, decent weather, and a lack of virus next year, we could see birds having maximum clutches to help replenish the numbers.