Bird flu strikes dozens of snow geese at a migratory stop along the Richelieu River in Montérégie, causing concern among residents.
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“They act like they’ve been poisoned, it’s not like they’re there,” worries Jacques Cardinal, a retiree from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
Arriving to take his traditional migration photos, he was distressed to find at least fifty dead ducks and others on the shore, the likes of which he had not seen in thirty years.
“It’s dangerous, children play with it, they can touch it,” says his friend Daniel Martel, dismayed by the inaction of the authorities, who, according to him, should have removed the bodies days ago.
L’Arche de Zoé, a shelter for farm animals and wild animals in Saint-Blaise-sur-Richelieu, has received several calls about it in recent days.
“Geese, in normal times, are very difficult to catch. But a lot of people brought them home and believed that we could treat them,” explains owner Marie-Claude Poirier.
According to Stéphane Lair, a professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Université Montreal, everything points to the ducks being infected with the H1N5 avian influenza virus.
“We received some from Saint-Jean, but we also sent for inspection from Saint-Paul-de-Abbotsford. […] That is for sure,” he says.
The animal health expert explains that the virus arrived in Quebec in the spring, but the most “spectacular” deaths occur this fall.
The virus spreads rapidly, especially as geese flock together to migrate from the Arctic to North Carolina.
They rub shoulders with asymptomatic carriers and geese that contribute to the spread, he explains.
“It’s like Covid, it’s a matter of communication. It’s like an office party,” he says.
Although the risk of transmission to humans is low, he advises against approaching and touching sick animals.
If the population of snow geese can withstand high mortality, the expert notes that the main risk of disease transmission is to farmed chickens above all.
All of them should be euthanized with considerable economic loss.
The Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks did not respond to our request last night.
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