It's a big weekend for Montana's migratory bird hunters.

And while we don't want to put on our lab coats and talk "highly pathogenic avian influenza  viruses," nor do we want to alarm you with staggering case numbers (there aren't), we figured it might be worth looking into for updates on what situations are potentially like in Montana, as we are part of flyways that have detected cases. And with season openers for many species this Saturday, October 1, we have a few tips on what to look for when you bring down your birds.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports in their latest updates that bird flu cases in wild birds appear to have declined over the summer. However, there are also some new cases detected so far this fall in parts of the U.S., including Montana.

Fatalities are more common in poultry than some species of wild birds.  But scientists are leery of a resurgence of the virus during the fall migration.  Montana FWP is doing their own monitoring, testing wild birds that display symptoms consistent with the disease.

There should be comfort in knowing that human infections with bird flu viruses are rare but they can happen after close contact with infected birds. Overall, the current risk to the general public from bird flu viruses is low. But a lot depends on the amount of exposure a person might have.

FWP says Montana migratory bird hunters should take some precautions when handling game birds, especially and sick or dead birds they find:

Do not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead.

Wear disposable latex or rubber gloves while cleaning game or cleaning bird feeders.

Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game.

People and equipment that have been in contact with wild game birds should avoid contact with back yard poultry flocks.

Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes immediately after handling game or cleaning bird feeders.

Wash tools and work surfaces used to clean game birds with soap and water, then disinfect with a 10 percent solution of chlorine bleach—one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water.

Separate raw meat, and anything it touches, from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination.

Cook game meat thoroughly to an internal temperature of at least 165°F.

Do not keep bird feeders near domestic poultry.

Pretty basic stuff. Here's wishing all the Montana bird hunters a successful opening day!

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