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More than 40 Indiana counties now reporting sick, dying songbirds

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The state now confirms the number of counties with dead birds has more than doubled since Friday.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources on Monday told I-Team 8 that more than 40 counties in Indiana have reported sick or dying birds: Allen, Bartholomew, Benton, Boone, Brown, Carroll, Clark, Clinton, Decatur, Delaware, Floyd, Gibson, Greene, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Henry, Howard, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Lake, LaPorte, Lawrence, Marion, Monroe, Morgan, Newton, Ohio, Orange, Parke, Porter, Putnam, Starke, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe, Union, Vanderburgh, Washington and Whitley.

And this is impacting some farmers as well. The Indiana State Board of Animal Health sent out a warning Monday afternoon to tens of thousands of poultry farmers.

It urges them to take precautions in making sure they keep social distancing a priority between wild birds and their animals. Spokeswoman Denise Derrer says it’s going to be crucial for farmers to take extra diligence in sanitizing and putting up fences.

“At night, they like to go in and nest a lot of times anyway, so get them into indoors at a shelter in a coop in a barn. We know so little about what’s happening with the songbirds. And we just want to make sure we take precautions now and make sure it doesn’t cross over into the poultry side of things,” Derrer said.

Derrer also brought up the fact that it’s the summer, so a lot of the county fairs with animals are happening right now. She says there are no rules in place for fairs, but that is another avenue they could look into going forward.

The DNR says it’s received nearly 1,195 reports to the portal, with about 200 of those believed to be related to the sick and dying songbirds. That’s roughly double the number of reports they had last week.

The Kentucky Department of Wildlife said Monday that they had 1,200 reports come in since opening their songbird death portal. Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana have all asked people to take down their bird feeders as a precaution.

As for the big question — What is causing these birds to get sick? We still don’t know the exact cause, or when state authorities might have that answer. DNR Ornithologist Allisyn Gillet says that they are looking into cicadas as a possible reason for the songbird deaths. 

The Department of Natural Resources lists these recommendations for anyone who experiences sick or dead wild birds on their property:

• Use the DNR sick and dead wildlife reporting tool to alert DNR staff.
• Stop feeding birds until the mortality event has concluded.
• Clean feeders and baths with a 10% bleach solution.
• Avoid handling birds. If you need to handle birds, wear disposable gloves.
• When removing dead birds, wear disposable gloves and place birds and gloves in a sealable plastic bag to dispose with household trash.
• Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a precaution.