With avian flu ravaging Minnesota's domestic turkey industry, the state's hunters are being asked to watch for signs of the illness in wild turkeys or raptors when they head into the woods, beginning Wednesday when turkey hunting opens. This includes looking for birds with ruffled feathers, swollen wattles, discolored feet or impaired balance.

Hunters shouldn't touch or move such birds but should immediately notify the DNR.

"If they see dead birds, we'd like to get them tested," said Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program supervisor.

Avian flu hasn't been found in wild turkeys, but officials believe they likely are susceptible, and raptors are known to be susceptible. Waterfowl are natural reservoirs for the virus, but they don't die from it. So far, the DNR has collected 348 feces samples from waterfowl in three of the infected counties, and none has tested positive. Carstensen said officials are trying to collect and test 3,000 samples from the wild.

Meanwhile, the DNR is advising hunters to use caution when field-dressing birds to protect themselves and help prevent the spread of the virus. See www.startribune.com/outdoors for details.

To date, highly-pathogenic flu virus has been found in commercial turkey operations in Cottonwood, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lyon, Meeker, Nobles, Pope, Stearns and Watonwan counties.