A case of avian influenza, a flu virus particularly damaging to birds, was recently discovered in San Luis Obispo County.
The bird, a Canada Goose, a breed particularly susceptible to the virus, was captured at Laguna Lake Park and taken to the Pacific Wildlife Care Center in Morro Bay.
"The bird was kind of acting disoriented and mentally dull. She brought the bird here," said Shannon Riggs, Pacific Wildlife Care Director of Animal Care.
The bird was then submitted to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Health Laboratory where it tested positive for bird flu and was euthanized.
"We haven't been affected like this before," said Kathy Duncan, Pacific Wildlife Care Rehab Technician.
"Right now it seems to be most hard-hitting in the aquatic birds like ducks and geese and then raptors. So you know, hawks, and eagles, and owls, things like that," Riggs said.
Riggs says the body of water where these birds often congregate is likely to blame for the spread of the disease. They saw reports of cases in northern California and say it likely made its way to San Luis Obispo as the birds migrated south.
"For the waterfowl, it probably has to do with the fact that especially during migration, they hang out in big groups," Riggs said.
Riggs says raptors likely become infected because they feed on those types of birds.
Though the virus is not considered a danger to humans, people can spread the disease to their pet birds by touching an infected bird or its droppings.
"If you're keeping a respectful distance from the birds like you should be anyway, then it really shouldn't be too much of an issue when you're out in the open air," Riggs said.
Riggs says if this virus makes its way into a big production facility, it could potentially impact the supply of turkeys during the time of year they are most in demand.
"Chickens and domestic turkeys, anyway, seem to be very susceptible and of course, if it gets into a big production facility, then it's going to wreak havoc," Riggs said.
"You know, people shouldn't panic, but if you have backyard chickens, just take precautions," Duncan said.
If you do happen to come across a sick or injured bird or mammal, you can take it to the Pacific Wildlife Care Center.
The influx of sick birds has put a financial strain on the Pacific Wildlife Care Center and as a result, they are accepting financial donations.
If you see a bird that needs assistance, you can call their hotline at 805-543-9453.