Wisc. DNR Confirms avian influenza in wild red foxes

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has confirmed that three wild red fox kits tested positive for a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). It’s the same strain currently affecting domestic and wild bird populations in North America. These are the first detected cases in wild Wisconsin mammals. Similar cases have been confirmed in foxes from Minnesota, Michigan, Ontario, Canada and Europe.

"We don’t have any evidence that foxes are a significant source of transmission for the virus," said Lindsey Long, DNR Wildlife Health Veterinarian. "The three foxes in these cases most likely contracted the H5N1 strain of HPAI after eating infected wild birds."

The DNR says the three fox kits were from three different counties, and showed advanced neurological symptoms after being brought to Dane County Humane Society’s (DCHS) Wildlife Center.

People should avoid approaching any wild mammal that appears sick or injured. Do not approach a wild mammal that is behaving abnormally; examples may include neurological symptoms such as pacing or walking in circles, unbalanced posture or displaying head and body tremors.

Neurologic symptoms in mammals can signify many different conditions, including exposure to environmental contaminants, parasitic infections and diseases such as canine distemper and rabies. The DNR say no cases of the H5N1 avian influenza strain have been identified in domestic dogs or cats, but if you or a domestic animal has contact with a mammal showing neurological symptoms, consult your local health department or health care provider, or your veterinarian for your pet.