Henry Vilas Zoo takes major precautions as avian flu claims the lives of millions of birds

Dane Co. Henry Vilas Zoo
Dane Co. Henry Vilas Zoo(NBC15)
Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 1:03 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - After millions of chickens on a Jefferson Co. farm tested positive for a highly lethal form of the Avian Flu and had to be euthanized, the Henry Vilas Zoo announced extra precautions it is taking to protect its flocks.

“We have many endangered birds species on grounds and our main priority right now is to do everything we can to protect them,” Deputy Zoo Director Joseph Darcangelo explained. “We have instituted our disease outbreak protocols to protect our high-risk bird species who live at the Zoo.”

One of the biggest steps the zoo took was closing its Aviary into next month. The Behind the Scenes tours that included birds have been nixed for now. For the near future only animal care staff will be allowed to see them, and they must wear PPE when doing so. Flamingos, chickens, and penguins have all been brought indoors.

Zoo staff plan to consult with the USDA and state agencies to track the outbreak and determine when they can start easing their restrictions.

“It is important for us all to be proactive in this situation,” said Dr. Mary Thurber, a veterinarian and clinical instructor at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine who works in the Henry Vilas Zoo Animal Health Center. “If you have birds at home, we recommend reviewing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Defend the Flock Program to make sure you are using appropriate biosecurity to keep your birds safe.”

According to the zoo, seven million birds, mostly chickens and turkeys, have died or been killed nationally because of the bird flu since February.

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