Tom Christiansen, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s sage grouse biologist, said there is no sign yet of an outbreak of West Nile virus in Wyoming this year. Christiansen said a recent limited survey detected only low numbers of Culex tarsalis mosquitoes in the Powder River Basin where outbreaks have caused grouse deaths in the past. The Culex tarsalis mosquito is the primary vector of West Nile virus in Wyoming.
“But warm nighttime temperatures are thought to enhance the ability of the virus to multiply in the gut of the mosquito” Christiansen said. “If conditions remain warm through August, we could still see the virus show up this year,”
“Testing dead birds helps us monitor the scope and impact of the disease across the state,”Christiansen said. “We are particularly interested in sage grouse and other game birds found in remote areas that have no obvious injuries that might have resulted in their death. These may occur near water holes or hay fields on private lands.”
He added that obvious road kills should not be reported.
Although the chance of getting the virus from handling a dead bird is remote, picking up the birds with an inverted plastic sack while wearing gloves is recommended. The bagged carcass should then be placed into another plastic bag, preferably a trash bag, and tied. If it can’t be delivered shortly to the Game and Fish, the bird should be frozen. Christiansen emphasized the need to report dead birds quickly so they don’t deteriorate to the point they can no longer be tested.