Following the discovery of new cases of bird flu in Dorset and Warwickshire, Natural England has expanded its control measures to cover the whole of England. All keepers of birds in the UK are required to follow guidelines to reduce the threat of infection, including enclosed feeding, footwear disinfection and the use of netting to discourage wild birds. Shooting organisations have produced their own standing advice relating to gamebirds, which is officially endorsed by DEFRA as well as the Scottish and Welsh governments and can be found at: bit.ly/GFAbirdflu
The guidance says, “Shooting, whether of gamebirds or other species, is normally unaffected by the controls on bird flu outbreaks. An exception is if the outbreak is of the very serious H5N1 type in wild birds, when all shooting is automatically stopped only within the control zones to reduce the risk of moving infected birds around.
“There is, however, a possibility – albeit remote – that wild birds shot or culled in pest and predator control could be infected with bird flu at any time of the year, so it clearly makes sense to avoid actions that could spread infection from killed wild birds into any kept birds, whatever their species. Do not use the same vehicles and storage facilities for shot and live birds without thorough cleansing and disinfection in between. Likewise, wash or sanitise hands and wash clothing well after handling dead birds and before any contact with kept flocks to minimise spreading infection.”
Bird flu is a notifiable disease, which shooters are uniquely placed to detect. Anyone finding dead wild birds should report them to the GB bird flu helpline (03459 33 55 77) or in Northern Ireland to the DAERA Helpline (0300 200 7840).