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First West Nile Virus Case In Sage Grouse In Oregon

August 21, 2006

Salem, Oregon –Three sage grouse found dead in Malheur County have been confirmed to be infected with West Nile Virus, the first diagnosis of the disease in sage grouse in Oregon .

The dead sage grouse were reported by a private landowner near Burns Junction and investigated by ODFW and U.S. Geological Survey biologists, who found three fresh sage grouse mortalities, more than 60 decomposed sage grouse and one sick northern harrier. The three sage grouse samples and the northern harrier were tested at the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison , Wis. and confirmed positive for the disease.

A team of biologists from ODFW and USGS are now monitoring the area for additional mortalities and collecting blood samples from live sage grouse to test for the presence of WNV antibodies. The sage grouse mortality appears to be localized to an area near Burns Junction at this time.

Since 2003, West Nile Virus has been detected in sage grouse in Wyoming , Colorado , Utah , Nevada , California and Idaho . The disease is usually fatal to sage grouse, resulting in death within six days of infection.

Overall, Oregon 's sage grouse population remains healthy at about 35,000 birds. Most sage grouse are found in the southeast portion of the state, particularly Lake , Harney and Malheur counties.

ODFW is requesting the assistance of the public, particularly landowners and pronghorn antelope hunters, in monitoring the disease and asks that dead sage grouse be reported or turned in to an ODFW office. Dead birds can be handled using gloves and an inverted plastic sack; the bird should then be placed in another plastic bag and the bag tied. Birds that cannot be promptly delivered to an ODFW office should be frozen to preserve for testing.


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