Detection of Avian Influenza In Montana

On Friday April 14, 2023, the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) confirmed Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a Rosebud County backyard poultry flock. This is the 17th HPAI affected flock in the state of Montana linked to the 2022 outbreak of HPAI infections in the United States. The disease was last confirmed in poultry in the state in January.

The disease caused 100% mortality in the Rosebud County backyard chicken flock, which numbered several dozen birds. The animals did not show obvious signs of illness prior to sudden death. To prevent further spread, infected premises are placed under quarantine and any remaining birds are euthanized. In addition to restrictions on the affected flock, the department is contacting flock owners within 6.2 miles of the affected premises to provide education on minimizing risk for disease exposure.

“In past years, the department has seen cases of HPAI ramp-up on the East Coast, then move west with the season,” stated Dr. Merry Michalski, a veterinarian with the Department of Livestock. “We are noticing a similar trend this year. Therefore, we expect that the risk of HPAI to Montana poultry will increase with the spring migration of waterfowl and other wild birds.”

Migratory waterfowl are the primary source of avian influenza. Wild birds can appear healthy but carry infection and shed the virus in the feces, saliva, and respiratory secretions. Domestic poultry become infected through direct contact with infected wild birds, or through contact with contaminated objects, equipment, or the environment. With this new Montana detection, the department is reminding bird owners to house birds indoors and prevent exposure to wild birds and wild bird bodily fluids. This recommendation also applies to birds enrolled in certified organic programs. Enrolled organic producers should contact their certifier before moving birds indoors to ensure program compliance.

Sick poultry can exhibit signs such as swollen eyes, discolored comb and legs, a significant drop in egg production, or decrease in water and feed consumption. However, the most common presentation with this virus variant has been sudden death of multiple birds within a flock.

Biosecurity measures to protect flocks include:

Prevent contact between wild or migratory birds and domestic poultry, including access by wild birds to feed and water sources.

House birds indoors to the extent possible to limit exposure to wild or migratory birds.

Limit visitor access to areas where birds are housed.

Use dedicated clothing and protective footwear when caring for domestic poultry.

Immediately isolate sick birds.

Report sudden onset of illness or high death loss in domestic poultry to your veterinarian or MDOL at (406/444-2976) immediately. If you find sick or dead wild birds, please contact your local Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) Warden, Biologist or Regional office, or call the FWP wildlife veterinarian (406/577-7880).  MDOL would like to remind veterinarians who are submitting samples suspicious for HPAI to contact Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MVDL) prior to shipment so laboratory staff are prepared to receive the sample and follow an increased biosecurity protocol.

While HPAI is considered a potentially zoonotic disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to consider the risk to people from wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry to be low. However, it is advisable to wear gloves and face protection when working with sick or dead birds. The department also recommends that individuals practice good hand hygiene and refrain from eating and drinking whenever working with livestock and poultry. Existing safeguards to keep food safe and wholesome are sufficient to protect people, and the food supply in the United States is one of the safest in the world. As a reminder, the US Department of Agriculture recommends cooking poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Montana FWP continues to track HPAI infection in predatory mammals (i.e.: fox, skunk, and bears). Additionally, there is concern for transmission to domestic cats and dogs that ingest dead infected birds. Mammals with HPAI may exhibit neurologic symptoms, such as incoordination or increased aggression. If you notice abnormal neurologic behavior in your pet, please contact your veterinarian and provide any history of recent ingestion of a deceased bird by the pet. Rabies is also a concern when dealing with animals that exhibit neurologic symptoms.

The mission of the Montana Department of Livestock is to control and eradicate animal diseases, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans, and to protect the livestock industry from theft and predatory animals. For more information on the Montana Department of Livestock, visit www.liv.mt.gov.

Submitted By  Logan Kruse

Trojan’s Track Find Success in Bigfork

If you plan on joining the track team, cancel your Saturday sleeping in plans. There’s a track meet somewhere. Last Saturday (April 8) it happened to be the Bigfork Invitational. On board and on the road by 7:00 a.m. the Troy Trojans were in for a long day.

The Bigfork Invitational welcomed sixteen teams from the class A, B, and C ranks. Teams from Columbia Falls and Whitefish. Teams from St. Regis and Alberton. Contingents of 35 kids, contingents of 3 kids, battling for team and individual honors.

Points were given to the top six finishers in each event. And that would determine team scores. The smaller schools don’t have the numbers for the team title chase. But there is individual glory. And after all, David slayed Goliath.

Trojan soph Kempton Sloan “drew first blood” winning the high jump with a leap of 5’ 8”. Sloan’s 39’ 5” triple jump earned him a third-place finish. It was Sloan, PBR, and it was the second longest jump in class B ranks this year.

Competing for the first time this year was Troy’s 1600-meter relay team. Made up of Seth Newton JR, Marcus Hermes, Soph Kempton Sloan, and Fr. Nolan Morris. Their time of 3:54 earned them second place.

Hermes’ time at 2:16 put him in fifth place in the 800-meter run.

Fr. Nolan Morris showed his potential. Running the 1600 meter, Morris finished with a time of 5:05 just out of the running in seventh place.

On the ladies side, Soph Cortenie Rogers’ mark of 27’ 8” earned her sixth place in the triple jump.

Afterwards, Coach Newton commented, “Happy for the relay team, that was their first competitive run of the year. I thought Nolan was outstanding. He’s only a freshman and he’s going to get better.” Newton continued, “What I like the most about tis track team is that they cheer for each other. When there is no competition in their events they go cheer for their teammates. It’s nice to see.”

The Trojans pulled in at 10:30 p.m. making it a fifteen hour day. You can sleep in tomorrow.

By Jim Dasios, The Montanian




Short-Term Rental Owners from Across the State Share Their Stories with Legislators

Owners of short-term rental (STR) properties across Montana gathered at the State Capitol recently to meet their legislators, share their home sharing experience, and advocate for fair STR rules.

More than two dozen property owners from as far as Libby and Prey visited  the Capitol April 5th to encourage lawmakers to support legislation that allows them to continue to share their homes to supplement their income.

The effort was organized by Airbnb for its Host community in Montana, 77% of whom have just one Airbnb – their own primary residence.

More than 30%  of Airbnb Hosts in Montana report that the additional income has allowed them to stay in their homes, and 42% say it has helped them keep pace with the rising cost of living. One-fourth of all Airbnb Hosts in Montana are over the age of 60.

Hosts said they wanted to dispel common myths of STR owners, including that Hosts are typically out-of-state corporations with multiple properties, or that their STRs take badly needed housing off the market.

Many local Hosts wanted to share with legislators that being a short-term rental host has become a financial lifeline.

“My husband and I are 4th generation landowners and were just able to afford to retire at the age of 71,” said Sherri Manley, who lists her Ennis short-term rental through Airbnb. “Our short-term rental has only been in existence for one year and was renovated to supplement our income. Long-term renting would not be practical for us because we have a large family who visits and uses the home to house them.”

Another local short-term rental owner, Annalee Venneri of Helena, said “As a single income household with a state employee salary I found myself in a possible housing insecurity situation. When I found out my rent would be more than a mortgage I decided to buy my house. I host my spare bedroom in an attempt to offset my bills, rebuild my savings, and pay off debt from the purchase.”

The 2023 Legislature considered a number of bills that could have negatively affected property owners’ rights to put their homes up for short-term rental. As of Wednesday (April 5), the most onerous of those bills had been tabled.  Hosts said they were appreciative of legislative efforts to push back on those bills.

Legislators have also considered bills that would help protect the rights of short-term rental property owners. Sen. Daniel Zolnikov, an outspoken supporter of short-term rentals, met with hosts Wednesday morning, encouraging them to meet their representatives and share their stories.

“Montana’s short-term rental (STR) owners should have the right to utilize their property to make additional income to keep up with the increasing cost of living without burdensome rules and regulations,” said Sen. Zolnikov. “Making it harder for Montanans to share their homes with guests looking to spend money in local cities only hurts our economy.”


Submitted By  Brian Allfrey