COULTER: Public investment needed to protect birds and people in the ‘pandemicene’

Kendra Coulter, Associate Professor of Labour Studies at Brock University, had a piece recently published in Canada’s National Observer about steps that can be taken to create a more safe environment for wild birds.

She writes:

“Looking up from the Saturday paper on May 7, I saw her. She had assessed the many options, meticulously selected building materials and chosen our house. She now diligently guards and defends her cradle of life, her nest strategically tucked underneath the eavestrough. 

This robin’s multifaceted labour epitomizes spring in Canada. Our animal neighbours are especially busy working to raise their young and navigate both long-standing and emerging dangers. Normally, wildlife rehabilitators are just as busy providing care for birds who fall victim to our windows, vehicles and our house cats allowed outdoors. But this year, the landscape is even more perilous.

A “highly pathogenic avian influenza,” H5N1 (or avian flu for short), is spreading through many countries, including Canada. It is primarily affecting farmed chickens who are kept in cramped conditions where diseases spread like wildfire. Nearly two million of these birds have already been killed — that is, before their scheduled premature deaths. The avian flu is also a zoonotic disease that can transfer to humans. The federal government says the risk to most Canadians is “extremely low” since infection primarily occurs through direct contact.

Yet because of the risks to other birds, as well as staff and volunteers who may be handling infected animals, some animal care organizations have decided not to admit any bird patients at all this spring. The decision is understandable but also upsetting. The usual threats to wild birds remain, so many will suffer and slowly die from various ailments in places where care has been paused.”

Continue reading the full article on the Canada’s National Observer website.

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