Near the small town of Olive, ten wild turkeys were found to have died from a viral infection identified as Avian Pox. Avian Pox is usually found in localized populations and is most commonly contracted from domestic poultry. It is transmitted from bird to bird once it is established in the population. It is not always fatal; however, in this case the “chicken pox” type rash broke out internally in the mouths and throats of the birds preventing them from eating or drinking and impairing their breathing. Symptoms of infected birds are an external chicken pox type rash on the legs or head, birds continually walking in circles or sitting in a roost tree for days at a time and never leaving.
Spring Turkey season begins April 14, 2012 and hunters and residents alike need to know this virus is rare in eastern Montana and this is believed to be a localized occurrence. Jennifer Ramsey, FWP State Veterinarian, emphasizes that there is no risk of infection to humans or livestock. However, she does recommend not letting pets eat the carcasses of harvested Turkeys.
If you have questions or would like to report mortality of groups of Wild Turkey, please contact Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Region Seven, Miles City at 406-234-0900.