W.Va. lifts ban on feeding birds in its eastern panhandle

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W.Va. lifts ban on feeding birds in its eastern panhandle
Birds gather at a feeder in the Appalachian Mountains. (Photo courtesy Joshua J. Cotten)

An investigation into diseased birds found in the eastern panhandle has concluded that reports of affected birds have declined since July, according to the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources.

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As a result, the division is lifting its recommendation to not feed birds in the area, as long as bird feeders are cleaned weekly with soapy water and disinfected with a 10-percent bleach solution.

Surrounding states have also lifted recommendations to not feed birds.

In late May, wildlife managers in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia started receiving reports of sick and dying birds with swollen eyes with a crusty discharge and neurological and behavioral abnormalities.

While the cause of the bird mortalities has yet to be determined, the WVDNR continues to collect information and work with other agencies and organizations to monitor and investigate the situation.

The division, along with other state and federal agencies, are working with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, and the University of Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program to investigate and diagnose the cause of mortality.

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Birds from Berkeley and Jefferson counties have been submitted to the study, where diagnostics are pending. Most reports in West Virginia have come from counties in the Eastern Panhandle.

If you encounter sick or dead birds with swollen eyes with a crusty discharge and neurological and behavioral abnormalities, contact the division district office in your area for guidance. If you must remove a dead bird, use disposable gloves to collect and place it in a sealable plastic bag and dispose of it with household trash.

Additional information about the bird mortalities will be shared by the WVDNR as diagnostic results are received. For more information about birds in West Virginia, visit WVdnr.gov/plants-animals/birds.

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