Dove deaths: Virus not harmful to pets, but can affect poultry, game birds

Enterprise Staff
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
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Eurasion Collared Dove

Photo courtesy Wikimedia

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has had reports from citizens about an unusual number of dead Eurasian collared doves in yards and around neighborhoods this winter.

FWP Region 7 submitted some of the dead birds for testing, and results have come back positive for Pigeon Paramyxovirus PPMV-1, an FWP news release said. Paramyxovirus outbreaks most commonly involve Eurasian collared doves and rock doves and can cause significant mortality. With the increasing populations of Eurasian collared doves in recent years in the U.S., reports of deaths in these species are increasing. Infected birds can shed virus particles for six months or more.

It is the same strain being seen right now in North and South Dakota dove mortalities, according to FWP Region 7 Non-game Biologist Brandi Skone.

“The good news is, pets should be OK,” Skone said in the release. “Folks need to make sure they take precautions when handling any dead birds (i.e. use gloves and wash their hands afterward). Other strains of the virus have been shown to cause conjunctivitis (a minor eye infection) in humans, so again folks should take the necessary precautions when disposing of dead carcasses or cleaning up feces or bird baths used by potentially infected pigeons/doves.”

“There’s also a chance of chickens and game birds contracting the virus,” Skone said. “Contraction would happen through contact with bodily fluids (i.e. feces, saliva) of infected pigeons/doves. If dead birds are showing up in people’s yards, they should dispose of them, using necessary precautions (gloves, plastic bags). If they’ve got poultry, they could also clean the area with a 10 percent bleach solution.”

Households with backyard poultry who feed wild birds should be vigilant for signs of illness in pigeons and doves, and use separate food and water sources for poultry. Due to the potential of some PPMV-1 strains to cause mortality in poultry, minimizing contact between freeranging doves and poultry is advised.

Skone said if people continue to find dead doves or pigeons, FWP would like to know about it, including a location and number of dead birds. People can contact Skone directly at 406-234-0948 or call the FWP office at 406-234-0900.