Bird flu has killed hundreds of wild black vultures at a Georgia sanctuary that houses more than 1,500 other animals.
At least 700 black vultures have died, Noah’s Ark animal care manager Allison Hedgecoth told WXIA-TV. State workers euthanized 20 to 30 other birds, she said.
“All of our chickens were euthanized yesterday and our turkeys and our guinea hens,” she said.
State officials have set up a six-mile (9.6km) perimeter around the sanctuary in hope of containing the spread, according to WXIA.
“With birds that are able to move around and airborne, this disease could spread pretty rapidly if it’s not contained very quickly,” state Senator Emanuel Jones told the station.
A sign on the Noah’s Ark website said it would be closed until 3 September.
No other birds at the Noah’s Ark sanctuary have tested positive for or shown symptoms of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain, sanctuary officials told news outlets.
An outbreak of the virus in the US has led to the deaths of 40 million chickens and turkeys and about 2,000 wild birds this year. The wild birds include more than 240 black vultures and nearly 220 bald eagles, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Even seals have died from it.
Officials said they were told Saturday that initial tests indicate the black vultures that roost at Noah’s Ark died of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain. State authorities were notified when an unusual number of dead vultures were found on 13 August, according to a statement released to news outlets.
Noah’s Ark is in Locust Grove, about 30 miles (48km) miles south-east of Atlanta. It’s more than 100 miles (160km) north-west of the area where hundreds of birds in a mixed backyard flock died or were euthanized earlier this year and most of the previously reported 15 wild bird deaths from the virus were located.