DNR: West Nile Virus confirmed in Michigan ruffed grouse

Two grouse submitted to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Disease Lab in Lansing for testing for West Nile Virus. The bird on the left is in poor physical condition, but tested negative for West Nile Virus. The bird on the right was in very good condition, but tested positive for the virus. Photo Courtesy: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

NORTHERN MICHIGAN, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) -- If you recently went hunting for ruffed grouse in Michigan, you may want to get the bird tested.

For the first time The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of the West Nile Virus in the state's ruffed grouse population.

The DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory in Lansing tested five birds that were collected between August and October. Two of the birds were found dead while the other three were shot by hunters.

The ruffed grouse that were found positive for the virus included two from Iron County and one each from Delta, Roscommon and Missaukee counties.

“We’ve had West Nile Virus in Michigan since 2002,” said Thomas Cooley, a DNR wildlife biologist and pathologist at the Wildlife Disease Laboratory. “It’s the first year that we’ve seen it in grouse.”

West Nile Virus is primarily transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes. There is no evidence of human infection from eating properly cooked game that has been infected with the virus.

In addition to the five ruffed grouse that were tested in the Lansing lab, five other grouse were tested and showed no signs of having the virus.

“We have received several inquiries from hunters about West Nile Virus and ruffed grouse,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. “We want to provide information on the virus to help everyone better understand its presence in Michigan and its connection to ruffed grouse populations.”

In 2017 alone, over 200 animals have been confirmed with West Nile Virus from 60 of Michigan's 83 counties, including all 15 counties in the Upper Peninsula. 39 human cases of the virus have also been reported.

Hunters are advised to submit grouse for testing if they are concerned it may be infected.

“Ruffed grouse hunting in Michigan is a long-standing tradition and our state is home to some of the best grouse hunting anywhere,” said Terry Minzey, DNR Upper Peninsula regional wildlife supervisor. “While we will continue to explore any effects of West Nile Virus as a stressor on ruffed grouse populations, with Michigan’s significant reserve of high-quality grouse habitat, and our continued work with partners to sustain wildlife populations, we fully expect grouse hunting to remain a spectacular experience in the state far into the future.”

To submit a ruffed grouse for testing, contact your local DNR office.

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