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How to keep your hummingbird feeder free from pests

A few small steps can protect your nectar from bears and insects.

By Tyler Santora, Audubon.org

Nectar feeders are an excellent way to attract hungry hummingbirds to your yard. After all, these perky flitters eat constantly, and their dietary needs are pretty basic. With a bit of white sugar mixed with water, you can sustain your local Ruby-throateds and Anna’s, while brightening up your garden or patio with their vivid plumage. 

But hummingbirds aren’t the only animals that like it sweet: Bears, insects, and other birds often co-opt nectar feeders for their own gain. Some intruders, like chickadees and orioles, are a bonus for birders. But attracting bears to your neighborhood can put both you and the four-legged interlopers in danger, and excess insects can be a nuisance for any homeowner.

Here’s how to keep surprise guests away.


Ursids are mostly attracted to generic feeders stocked with pungent foods like suet or sunflower seeds. But when bears come across hummingbird feeders, the omnivories will knock them down and snack on the sugar water. 

Once a bear finds your free food, it will return time and time again, says Geoff LeBaron, coordinator of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count. Mamas will pass the knowledge on to their cubs, leading generations to visit the well-stocked pantry in your yard.

Hungry bears won’t hurt birds but coming in close proximity to humans is dangerous for both their families and yours. Attacks are rare, but if you surprise a bear—especially when cubs are around—it can become violent. 

If bears are frequenting your feeders, take the equipment down and move it inside. When the trespassers stop coming around, try putting the nectar out again . . . but bring them back in if the bears start coming back.

Be sure to clean up your yard, as stinky garbage can attract the lumbering animals. Hanging feeders out of reach can also deter bears, though finding a suitable spot is tricky since both black and grizzlies can climb trees.


Ants and bees pose the biggest problems with nectar feeders. Like bears, they don’t harm the hummingbirds—but ants can crawl into the sugar-water wells and clog them up. And bees, while useful pollinators, can obstruct your view of the birds and deliver painful stings. 

The easiest way to parry these pests is to keep your feeders tidy, says Tina Hall, the director of Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds in Arizona. If the structures are whipped around by the wind or not assembled securely, they can drip nectar, giving insects easy access to the goods.

To stop leakage, hang the devices in a less-than-breezy area and stow them away in rough conditions. Mop up spills with a sponge and hot water at least once a week, and check that the parts are tightened. While you’re at it, dump the old nectar and refill with a fresh, room-temperature mixture to keep the food pure and healthy. In warm weather, change the filler twice per week.

Some hummingbird feeders are equipped with moats to drown ants that climb down onto them. If your feeders don’t have this feature, you can buy attachable ant guards that trap the invaders. 

Bee guards are less deadly, shielding the nectar reservoir from the insects. But if the feeder is covered in sugar water, barring bees from the drinking hole won’t do much good—so the guards aren’t a substitute for consistent cleaning. If you’re still having infestation issues, avoid feeders with yellow decor, as bees are attracted to the sunny color.

For a healthier environment, try to maintain an insecticide-free yard. They might seem like an easy fix, but pesticides can injure, kill, and reduce population numbers of birds, bees, and other animals. 

Other Birds

Hummingbirds probably won’t stop at your feeders when larger birds are there, but upping the avian diversity in your yard doesn’t hurt them, either. Depending on your location, you could see everything from Verdins to Ladder-backed Woodpeckers at your nectar wells. Pretty much anything with a sweet tooth that can fit its beak into the spigots is fair game.

There aren’t reliable methods to keep non-target species away from your sugar water, so the best course of action is to embrace them. After all, what’s the harm in seeing more birds?

For more information about birds, visit www.audubon.org.

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Catch of the Week!

Kylee Hendges, age 11, reeled in this nice bass while fishing at grandma’s cottage.

A big thank you to grandma Vonda Hendges for sending us this photo!

Congratulations, Kylee, you made the Post Catch of the Week!

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Hear the bugle call of elk viewing this month

From the Michigan DNR

Michigan is host to plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities, but one species stands tall: The elk. Fall is the best time to catch a glimpse of one of Michigan’s most sought-after viewing experiences.

Elk are massive animals that dwell within the rolling hills and hardwoods of northeast Michigan. Despite weighing between 400 and 900 pounds and standing 5 feet tall at the shoulder, they can be quite elusive throughout much of the year. However, during the fall breeding season, elk are more active while competing for mates. Elk congregate in open fields and bugle loudly this time of year, making for the perfect opportunity to view (and hear!) the wild herd.

The herd can be found only in areas throughout Otsego, Montmorency, Presque Isle and Cheboygan counties. For good locations to spot these stunning animals, there are 13 viewing areas accessible by road throughout the Pigeon River Country State Forest near Gaylord. Road conditions are variable depending on the weather.

When planning your visit, keep in mind that elk gather in forest openings at dawn and dusk to feed and socialize. It is best to arrive just before sunrise or sunset and make sure to listen carefully for males bugling. Bring your binoculars, spotting scope or camera for close-up viewing while remaining a safe distance away.

Visit the DNR wildlife viewing page to learn more about this unique Michigan tradition and where to do it. https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/things-to-do/wildlife-viewing/elk

Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

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DNR proposes increase to Chinook salmon stocking in Lake Michigan

Michigan Department of Natural Resources proposes to increase Chinook salmon stocking by 54 percent in Lake Michigan. Courtesy photo

After decades of fish stocking decreases to balance the alewife and Chinook salmon populations, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeing good indicators that a modest stocking increase may be warranted in Lake Michigan.

To discuss this proposal and receive public feedback, the DNR will host a virtual meeting Monday, Sept. 19, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

“We have seen several years of good Chinook salmon growth and have a slight increase in the alewife biomass, or abundance of those fish,” said Jay Wesley, the DNR’s Lake Michigan basin coordinator. “Although the alewife biomass is a fraction of what it was historically, we have a good 2021-year class and have seen up to six-year classes of alewives in our fisheries surveys – that means there are up to six different age groups in the current population of alewife.” 

A “year class” refers to all of the fish of any species hatched, either through natural reproduction or through fish-rearing efforts, during that year’s spawning period. 

Wesley said that a recently run predator-prey model also suggests that Lake Michigan has a good ratio of Chinook to alewife biomass, which is one of many indicators used to inform stocking decisions.

“The proposed 54% increase from 650,000 to 1 million spring fingerlings is a modest increase compared to the estimated 4.5 million wild Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan,” said Wesley. “It will allow us to increase numbers at sites like Charlevoix that contribute to the entire lake fishery and reinstate stocking sites like Ludington State Park and Fairport.”

Meeting details 

Michigan Sea Grant will assist with the Zoom meeting:

Save the date: Monday, Sept. 19, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Passcode: 2022

Or join via telephone: 646-876-9923 or 301-715-8592

Webinar ID: 994 1124 7153

Questions? Contact Jay Wesley at wesleyj@michigan.gov

Meeting organizers will provide an update on the conditions of Lake Michigan, along with proposed stocking locations and number of fish stocked.

The Michigan DNR works with the Lake Michigan Committee, which is represented by the states that border the lake (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin) and the Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority, to co-manage the fishery in Lake Michigan.

To learn more about how the DNR manages fisheries, visit Michigan.gov/Fishing.

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Youth Hunt

Gavin Lund, 10, of Courtland Township, bagged an 8-point buck on his great-grandfather’s farm during the opening day of youth hunt on Saturday, September 10.

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Three new whooping cranes migrate to Wisconsin from Canada

Sisters Kali and Daya are two of the Whooping Cranes that migrated from Canada to Wisconsin. Courtesy photo.

Baraboo, Wisconsin – Three Whooping Cranes made an unconventional migration in late August, traveling via private planes and cargo vans from the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo (WICZ) in Alberta, Canada, to the International Crane Foundation’s headquarters in southern Wisconsin.

“Arranging for the transportation of the three Whooping Cranes was a joint effort between our staff and the WICZ for over more than a year,” noted Hillary Thompson, North America Program Crane Analyst for the International Crane Foundation.

But the hard work paid off when we could open the cranes’ traveling crates when we finally arrived in Wisconsin and see the birds take their first steps into their new homes,” continued Thompson.

Ruby, the oldest of the three cranes, hatched at the WICZ’s Wildlife Conservation Centre in July 2010. Ruby is joining the International Crane Foundation’s captive flock with the goal of adding her to the Foundation’s Whooping Crane breeding program. Sisters Kali and Daya hatched in 2021 at the centre and were both reared by adult Whooping Cranes, known as parent-rearing.

 “We’re extremely happy to see that these Alberta-born cranes have settled into their new home in Wisconsin,” said Colleen Baird, Senior Manager of Animal Care at the WICZ. “Breeding endangered whooping cranes and hatching chicks is always challenging, but our team is proud to see that the various methods of hatching and rearing that we utilize has successfully boosted the wild population.”

The two yearlings were temporarily housed at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin for a week to allow them to adjust to the move. The young cranes were released on September 6 [estimated date] near adult Whooping Cranes at the Refuge. Whooping Crane Reintroduction team members are monitoring the two young birds to ensure their safety as they learn about their new surroundings.

The duo was initially meant to be released in fall 2021. However, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the emergence of avian influenza in North America in early 2022 resulted in the birds spending their first year in Calgary. Although they have missed their first year of migration, we’re hopeful they will naturally migrate with the other cranes.

In the 1940s, only 21 Whooping Cranes remained in the wild – the result of widespread hunting and habitat loss. Dedicated conservation efforts have dramatically improved the fate of these endangered birds in North America. Today, over 650 of these majestic birds are in the wild in four populations. The Aransas Wood Buffalo population is the only natural population that migrates between Canada and the United States. The three reintroduced populations are the Eastern Migratory Population and Louisiana and Florida non-migratory populations.

“It is through partnerships like this that give me hope for the species. By working together, we are returning Whooping Cranes to the wild to the eastern U.S. and protecting countless other species in the process,” shared Thompson.

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Catch of the Week!

Hudson Hendges, age 2-1/2, did lots of practicing casting and reeling. “He finally reeled in his first fish and was so excited,” said grandma Vonda Hendges.

Congratulations, you made our Catch of the Week!

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Sportsmen for Youth – Youth Day

Sportsmen for Youth – Youth Day, which is always held on the first Saturday after Labor Day, is September 10  this year. Youth Day is held at Muskegon County Fairgrounds, 2261 Heights Ravenna Road, Fruitport, Michigan.  This will be our 28th year. The gates open at 9am and close at 3pm. This is a free family friendly event to introduce our youth to the many activities available to them in the great outdoors, however only youth under 17 years of age can participate in the activities. Persons over 17 are welcome to sit in on all the seminars. Each youth participating will receive a t-shirt and a ticket for lunch (while supplies last) and a raffle ticket.  

This year we have received commitments from approximately 60 exhibitors including the following:  a rock climbing wall, the Coast Guard Axillary and a vessel from Coast Guard Station, Muskegon, the Critter Barn, Muskegon Conservation Club, Grand Haven Steelheaders, with their fishing simulator, Friends of Ottawa County Parks, Jumpn’ Jupiter Skate Center, Coopersville Sportsman’s Club, Michigan United Conservation Club, a reptile and a birds of prey display and the West Michigan Walleye Club, to name a few.  Once again there will be the trout pond, put on by Michigan Anglers Assoc., with 1000 trout to be caught. The Hawg Trough, a 50 foot long aquarium mounted on a semi-trailer, will be here again this year and will be stocked with native fish for viewing.  It is also used as the stage for seminars with Mark Martin and some of his fishing staff. There are also mentored shooting of firearms, however you need to present a Hunter Safety Certificate in order to shoot. Attendees will also be able to experience various safety exhibits, demonstrations and tours of fire trucks, EMT vehicles and law enforcement displays. There will also be a 9/11 tribute at noon. 

More information on this Youth Day can be found on our website (www.sportsmenforyouth.com) and Facebook page. 

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Catch of the Week

Audrey Hendges age 5, reeled in this nice 17” bass all on her own while fishing on their private pond. “She’s quite the fisher girl,” said grandma Vonda Hendges.

Congratulations, Audrey! Your fish is our Catch of the Week!

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Birding shore to shore

By John Pepin, Deputy public information officer, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A recent cooperative venture has resulted in an exciting new opportunity for birdwatchers in the eastern Upper Peninsula.

Barred owl: Barred owls are one of 10 species of owls birdwatchers might see along the Shore-to-Shore Birding Trail in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Photo courtesy of Evan Griffis.

With the help of several partners, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has developed the Shore-to-Shore Birding Trail, which is a driving/walking/birding experience that covers more than 400 miles and 40 birding points of interest throughout parts of Chippewa, Schoolcraft, Luce and Mackinac counties.

“It is no secret that Michigan is home to many natural wonders and diverse bird species, making it a location that birdwatchers, also known as birders, flock to,” said Jayne Roohr, a DNR wildlife technician at Newberry. “Across the state, various groups are working to establish birding trails in many communities.

“These trails are self-guided driving routes that direct visitors to designated locations that offer unique and exciting bird-viewing opportunities and may also highlight natural and cultural features of the local communities that the trails go through.”

The Shore-to-Shore Birding Trail is situated within the shorelines of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron and passes through several communities, including St. Ignace, Sault Ste. Marie, Bay Mills, Newberry, Seney, Engadine, Naubinway, Trout Lake, Brevort and Epoufette.

“Whether you visit the Shore-to-Shore Birding Trail to cross off another life bird from your list or come to enjoy the unique species found in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, there is no doubt that you will experience the awe-inspiring wonder of the region and enjoy local hospitality and culture,” a passage from the website promoting the trail reads.

Common yellowthroat: Two common yellowthroats are pictured. The birds are among the warbler species birders can find in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Photo courtesy of Evan Griffis.

Some of the birding highlights of the area include opportunities to see up to 10 species of owls, three species of grouse, numerous warblers and other sought-after perching bird species, endangered piping plovers and Kirtland’s warblers, which are more typically associated with the northern Lower Peninsula.

More specifically, the trail traverses Lake Superior’s southern shore from Sault Ste. Marie to Whitefish Point, which is Michigan’s premier birding destination. Migrant waterbirds, songbirds, shorebirds and raptors pass by the point in tremendous numbers during spring and fall migration, and rarities often show up. From there, the trail heads south and east through forests, bogs and patches of grassland.

Interior stops include a multitude of forested and nonforested habitats in the Hiawatha National Forest, the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, the Silver Creek Birding Trail and a variety of other favored birding locations.

Spruce grouse: Spruce grouse, along with ruffed and sharp-tailed, are three grouse species birders might find in a single day along the Shore-to-Shore Birding Trail, which runs through parts of Chippewa, Mackinac, Luce and Schoolcraft counties. Photo courtesy of Evan Griffis.

The trail is flanked by the northern shore of Lake Michigan from Naubinway Harbor to Point la Barbe near St. Ignace. A diverse array of migrant songbirds calls this area home in the summer, and both resident and irruptive (winter migratory) boreal species can be found here in winter.

The website for the trail (www.shoretoshorebirdingtrail.org)offers a range of helpful resources including an interactive map, with detailed information on numerous locations, birding tips, links to important birding aids, like a checklist of U.P. bird species, and information helpful in connecting with various travel and tourism entities.

Developing the trail was a determined and cooperative effort that took place over the past five years. The initial impetus for the trail was continuing efforts to coordinate promotion of birding hotspots in this part of Michigan.

Partners with the DNR on the trail included the Chippewa-Luce-Mackinac Conservation District, the Hiawatha National Forest, Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Bay Mills Indian Community, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Michigan Sea Grant and the Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission.

Additional organizations and individuals, including local birding experts, photographers, land managers and other volunteers also contributed to the efforts to plan and create the trail. The trail’s website details some of the backstory:

Trail: A Shore-to-Shore Birding Trail sign is shown posted at the old Eckerman Trout Pond in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Photo courtesy of Evan Griffis.

“Initial planning efforts began in 2017 when local DNR Wildlife Division staff attended the Michigan Birding Trail Network Workshop in Traverse City, hosted by the Michigan Audubon Society in partnership with Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension.

“Brainstorming continued at a local level until early 2019 when trail planning efforts picked up with multiple partners joining in on the effort of identifying locations, suitable habitats, writing interpretive information, designing signs, maps, and brochures and gathering resources for each stop along the trail.”

Working on the project allowed the DNR to become involved in a meaningful endeavor that broadens the agency’s reach and relevancy with a segment of wildlife recreationists the department doesn’t always get to work with directly.

Wetland: This image is a view overlooking a wetland on the Bailey-Lagerstrom Nature Preserve, located on Sugar Island in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Photo courtesy of Evan Griffis.

A grand opening event for the trail was held Aug. 19-20 in Paradise, during the village’s popular Paradise Wild Blueberry Festival.

DNR and conservation district staffers hosted an information booth during the grand opening, while volunteers from the Seney National Wildlife Refuge provided free guided birding tours at Whitefish Point, which is located not far away. Over 250 people visited the booth to learn more about the trail.

Funding for developing the trail was provided by the DNR and a Hiawatha National Forest Secure Rural Area Schools Self-Determination Act of 2000 grant secured by the conservation district from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.

“This funding supports a full-feature website, printed trail map, educational panels along the trail, roadside signage and the kickoff event to celebrate the grand opening,” said Mike McCarthy, executive director of the Chippewa-Luce-Mackinac Conservation District.

“Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula now boasts three large birding trails, with the newest addition of the Shore-to-Shore Birding Trail,” McCarthy said. “The Shore-to-Shore trail is bordered on the west side by the Superior Birding Trail and the North Huron Birding Trail to the east.”

Development of the Shore-to-Shore Birding Trail will provide valuable, new opportunities to local birdwatchers, as well as those traveling to the area from outside the region to experience the beautiful forests and wetlands, winding rivers, countless lakes and the wondrous variety of avian species that frequent the eastern U.P. during all or part of the year.

For more information on the trail, visit shoretoshorebirdingtrail.org.  

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Fishing Tip: Taking photos of fish

Are you an avid catch-and-release angler? Do you like to take photos of the fish you catch, prior to returning them to the water? Do you know the safest way to take these photos so you ensure the fish can live to be caught another day?

Here are some steps you can follow:

Wet your hands before you handle the fish; that way you won’t remove any of the protective mucus (or slime) that coats the fish’s body.

Remember fish can’t breathe out of water, so they will become uncomfortable rather quickly. Keep the fish in the water until your camera is ready to take the shot.

Take the photo with the fish fairly close to the water, so if it squirms out of your hands it will land in the water and not on a hard surface.

While holding the fish, don’t pinch or squeeze it and don’t stick your fingers in its gills.

Be mindful of the different kinds of fish that have teeth and/or spines that could stick you.

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DNR urges waterfowl hunters to use caution

Side view of colorful duck and drakes in motion of flight above ground on blue sky background

Expects fall surge in highly pathogenic avian influenza

With certain duck and goose hunting seasons starting Sept. 1 throughout the state, and others to follow this fall and winter, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources asks all hunters to be observant and careful when harvesting and handling wild birds, due to the presence of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus.

Although the rate of positive HPAI detections has slowed this summer, a recent uptick in reports of wild bird die-offs, neurologically abnormal wild birds and HPAI detections has prompted the DNR to issue additional guidance. Influenza experts expect a resurgence of this bird flu, as waterfowl migrations get underway and fall hunting seasons begin.

The H5N1 virus continues to be detected through wild bird surveillance activities and is considered widespread in wild bird populations throughout Michigan, including all watersheds in both the Upper and Lower peninsulas. Dabbling ducks are the most commonly infected waterfowl, but geese, swans, shorebirds and other species also can be infected.

“Avian influenza or ‘bird flu,’ is caused by viruses that infect both wild and domestic birds. Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses can severely affect the health of domestic birds, wild birds and, sometimes, humans and other mammals,” said Megan Moriarty, the state wildlife veterinarian with the DNR.

“As Michigan waterfowl hunters get out in the fields and marshes this season, we want them to know there is a lot they can do both to help prevent the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza and to keep themselves, others and our bird and wildlife populations safe,” she said.

HPAI origin, observable symptoms

In late 2021, a Eurasian strain of the HPAI virus was introduced into North America, and HPAI cases now have been confirmed in domestic birds, wild birds and wild mammals throughout most of the United States and Canada. Michigan’s initial HPAI detection, in a wild bird, occurred March 15, 2022. Since then, our state has had approximately 150 positive detections in wild birds and mammals.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is highly contagious, and poultry are especially vulnerable. The strain of HPAI now present in North America has caused extensive morbidity (illnesses) and mortality (death) events in a range of wild bird species. Waterfowl, raptors and avian scavengers such as vultures, gulls and terns have been affected.

Making the situation more challenging, wild birds can be infected with HPAI and show no signs of illness. They can carry the disease to new areas when migrating, potentially exposing domestic poultry to the virus. Currently, the DNR does not anticipate any serious impact to Michigan’s waterfowl populations.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza primarily affects birds, but is also a zoonotic disease, or one that has the potential to pass from domestic or wild animals to humans. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public health risk associated with HPAI remains low, but advises people to avoid handling any sick or dead wild birds.

Safety guidelines for hunters

  • *Harvest only waterfowl that act and look healthy. Do not handle or eat sick game.
  • *Field dress and prepare game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
  • *Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game.
  • *Remove and discard intestines soon after harvesting and avoid direct contact with the intestinal contents.
  • *Do not eat, drink, smoke or vape while handling carcasses.
  • *When done handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water (or alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable), and clean knives, equipment and surfaces that came in contact with game. Wash hands before and after handling any meat.
  • *Keep waterfowl cool (either with ice or refrigeration), below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, until processed, and then refrigerate or freeze.
  • *Thoroughly cook all game to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before eating it.

Help prevent the spread of HPAI

Immediately report wild bird deaths to your state wildlife management agency so that bird die-offs can be investigated and tested for avian influenza. In particular, die-offs involving six or more birds should be reported. Sick, dead, or neurologically abnormal wild mammals also may be cause for concern, so please report those, too.

Call the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory at 517-336-5030.

Call a local DNR wildlife field office to speak to a field biologist.

Use the DNR’s Eyes in the Field app. Choose the “diseased wildlife” reporting option.

Prevent contact of domestic or captive birds with wild birds.

Do not handle sick or dead wildlife. If it is necessary to do so, use a shovel, wear impermeable gloves, wash hands with soap and water, and change clothing before having contact with domestic poultry or pet birds.

Moriarty encouraged the public to continue sharing wildlife observations, even though the DNR will be unable to respond to every person submitting a report.

“It just takes a few minutes, but each report about birds and animals that are sick or appear to have unexplained deaths, especially in clusters, is a tip that often can lead to valuable information about a wildlife community,” she said. “We appreciate every effort to share those observations. While every bird or animal will not necessarily be tested for HPAI, all such observations are important and contribute to our understanding of this outbreak.”

Other HPAI resources

2022 Michigan Waterfowl Hunting Digest, especially pages 38-39.

Avian influenza updates (michigan.gov)

Avian Influenza | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (fws.gov)

USDA APHIS | 2022 Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (https://tinyurl.com/58684vsd)

Bird Flu Current Situation Summary | Avian Influenza (Flu) (cdc.gov)

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