Successful wild turkey hunters in five Minnesota counties are being asked to bring their turkeys to Department of Natural Resources offices to be tested for the highly pathogenic avian flu.

Starting Monday, the DNR is asking hunters in Kandiyohi, Pope, Meeker, Swift and Stearns counties to call local DNR wildlife offices to schedule an appointment to bring their birds in for testing.

Officials are trying to find sources of the avian flu that so far has decimated 26 domestic turkey flocks in the state.

“(Avian flu) has not yet been found in wild turkeys, but it has been found in domestic turkeys in these and other Minnesota counties,” said Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program supervisor “We chose those five counties to enlist the help of hunters because they have sufficient wild turkey populations.”

The wild turkey samples will include a swab of the trachea and, if the bird has not yet been field dressed, a swab of the cloaca, too.

Sampling takes a few minutes and the hunter will retain the bird. Hunters are asked to keep wild turkeys in their vehicles, and DNR staff will come out to take the samples at the vehicles. Hunters also will be asked to provide their contact information, harvest information and approximate harvest location.

Successful turkey hunters in those counties can call the following offices beginning Monday to schedule an appointment:   

  • Sauk Rapids, 320-223-7840
  • New­­­ London, 320-354-2154
  • Glenwood, 320-634-0342
  • Carlos Avery, 651-296-5290

The DNR earlier asked the state's turkey hunters to watch for signs of the illness in wild turkeys or raptors this spring, and report any dead birds to DNR officials. The agency has collected hundreds of feces samples from waterfowl -- which are believed to be the source of the virus -- in infected counties, but none has tested positive.

The 2015 spring wild turkey season opened Wednesday, and runs through May 28. The DNR hopes to collect 300 wild turkey samples. At this time, the DNR will not be sampling wild turkeys harvested in other counties.

Unless their bird is found positive, individual hunters will not be notified of results. 

The DNR recommends turkey hunters practice good hygiene while field dressing their birds and cook the meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any viruses and bacteria.

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