Bald Eagle Deaths Hit 14 States as Bird Flu Outbreak Grips US

Bald Eagle Deaths Hit 14 States as Bird Flu Outbreak Grips US Bald Eagle Deaths Hit 14 States as Bird Flu Outbreak Grips US (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

By Jay Clemons | Monday, 18 April 2022 09:29 PM

A total of 36 bald eagles have died since February, covering 14 different states, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The bald eagle, America's national bird, counts among the millions of birds nationwide that have been infected by a highly contagious avian influenza, a viral disease which yields high mortality rates among chickens.

The states include: Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

The death count among bald eagles could extend to 16 states, with two other eagles reportedly getting sick from the strain.

The deadly strain of bird flu, known as H5N1, has been sweeping the country. In fact, the USDA believes this current outbreak could be as lethal as the 2015 outbreak, when an avian sickness led to millions of deaths on commercial farms.

While the majority of 2022 bald eagle deaths have been reported in states east of the Mississippi River, the virus has various source points in western regions.

Bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list in August 2007 after their populations recovered sufficiently, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Plus, they're still protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

According to Wildlife Informer, an estimated 50,000 bald eagles were living in the United States last year. The 36 deaths in 2022 would account for approximately 0.00072% of the above estimate.

Wild birds can simultaneously be infected with bird flu and still show no signs of illness, the USDA reports. These birds can carry the disease to new areas when migrating, which often leads to greater virus exposure among poultry.

This outbreak has exacted a tremendous toll on the poultry industry, leading to higher egg and poultry prices across America, the USDA reports.

Citing the last week alone, approximately 23 million poultry have been exposed to the bird flu strain, including chickens and turkeys.

And when these chickens and turkeys come into contact with the feces of wild birds, they can contract the flu and quickly succumb at a high rate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the threat of humans contracting bird flu remains low.