Avian influenza fears are driving the number of birds entrusted into the care of the Scottish SPCA up by 825 per cent on last year, the charity has said.
Between December 1 2020 and January 31 2021, a total of 37 birds were admitted to Scottish SPCA centres, compared to just four for the same period a year ago.
Meanwhile, the charity’s animal helpline saw a 280 per cent increase in the number of calls about bird flu since it was reported to have entered the country in November.
Scottish Government declares ‘stringent biosecurity measures’ in face of Avian Influenza threat
The period of November to mid-January this year saw the SSPCA receive 57 calls about the disease, compared to just 15 for the same time span the year before.
It is thought the rise in calls and birds arriving in centres is due to fears over the risk of bird flu after cases were confirmed in Orkney and Fife.
The birds admitted to Scottish SPCA care included 22 cockerels, 11 hens and two ducks, with some abandoned as strays and others dropped off at the centres.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “The increase in the number of birds arriving with us is very concerning.
“There have been confirmed cases of bird flu infecting commercial poultry in Orkney but this has now been managed and there is no longer a threat.
“Recent reports confirmed avian influenza had infected kept gamebirds near Leven, Glenrothes. The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) is managing the situation and in order to limit the further spread of the disease, appropriate restrictions have been imposed and the remaining birds will be humanely culled under the Animal Health Act 1981.
“We would like to remind members of the public that the majority of cases of bird flu are being seen in migratory birds and as long as the mandatory precautions are followed for domestic and commercial poultry, the risk of incursion remains at a medium level for poultry with high biosecurity. The risk is high for poultry with poor biosecurity.”
He added: “We know that the threat of avian flu is a worry for owners but there is never an excuse for abandoning an animal. It is an offence punishable by law. Our team is here for those looking for advice.”
Restrictions have been imposed locally on poultry, eggs and manure after the “highly pathogenic” H5N1 strain was identified in a flock of 14,000 birds at a rearing site in Glenrothes, Fife, last week.
Concerns were raised about a high death rate in the flock of mixed game birds and a laboratory confirmed some had been infected by the virus.
The entire flock was culled.
The latest outbreak followed confirmation of cases of the H5N8 strain in a flock of free-range chickens on a poultry farm in Sanday, Orkney, in December.
Avian influenza H5N8 has been found in birds from a farm on the island of Sanday in Orkney, Scotland. More information available on https://t.co/UzgRQtrcRw: https://t.co/GpBCbNy8AE#BirdFlu #PoultryKeepers @NFUStweets @scotgov pic.twitter.com/8G76FhvO9Y
— APHA (@APHAgovuk) December 18, 2020
Thirty-nine birds in that flock died and the remaining 11 were put down.
The Scottish SPCA said that should anyone discover a group of dead birds it could mean they died after being infected with bird flu.
Anyone who finds a single dead bird of prey, gull or wildfowl species, particularly wild geese, wild ducks, swans, or finds five or more birds of any other species in the same location and at the same time, is asked to report the incidents to Defra’s national telephone helpline by calling 03459 33 55 77 and selecting option seven.
The Scottish SPCA said that wild birds can carry several diseases that are infectious to humans, so advised people not to touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds they find.