Iowa wildlife officials are worried about the spread of the West Nile virus in the wild bird populations of the state. Department of Natural Resources spokesman Lowell Washburn says it’s already well-known the disease has hit crows and bluejays. He says raptors such as eagles, hawks, falcons and owls are being affected — the DNR’s getting lots of calls about sick and dying raptors. Washburn says the deaths would set back programs such as the one to re-introduce peregrine falcons into Iowa. He says there fortunately haven’t been any cases of wild peregrines dying from the disease, although there is a case of one in captivity dying. Washburn says there are indications from far northern Iowa that waterfowl are also being hit. He says they’ve had reports of limited die-offs of mallard ducks and Canada geese, but says they haven’t been able to get an viable samples for testing. Iowa’s most popular game bird, the pheasant, has contracted the West Nile Virus in other states. Washburn says there aren’t any pheasant cases in Iowa. He says they are crossing their fingers that pheasant may be like some chicken flocks in Louisiana, which have tested positive for West Nile, but don’t show the symptoms, He says none of those chickens have gotten sick, and they hope pheasants have the same type of immunity. Washburn says the sheer numbers of wild birds makes it unlikely there could be any type of vaccine given to them. Washburn says some people with wild birds in captivity are using the horse vaccine on the birds in hopes of protecting their investment. Washburn says the long-term impact of West Nile on wildlife may take years to assess. Some scientists predict this is the big wave of the virus and the impact will lessen.
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