Great-horned owl in Custer County tests positive for avian influenza

This is the first confirmed positive case in 2022 of avian influenza in Idaho wildlife

A great-horned owl in Custer County has tested positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, and people are asked to report any dead or sick wild birds on Fish and Game’s Wildlife Health webpage.

The recent detection follows a trend seen in other parts of the country where sporadic deaths of migrating waterfowl and other birds provided the first indication that HPAI is present in an area.

Avian influenza infections are caused by a virus that can infect poultry and are carried by wild birds. While all types of avian influenza are contagious to other birds, some can cause high rates of death and illness in poultry, including commercial farms and backyard flocks. These types are classified as highly pathogenic, or HPAI.

The positive owl in Custer County is the first confirmed wildlife detection in 2022 of HPAI in Idaho, but there were also detections in 2015 and 2017. Fish and Game will continue to conduct surveillance for Avian Influenza in wild bird species.

The virus poses a low risk to humans, however some people may have job-related or recreational exposures to birds that put them at higher risk of infection according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. To learn more go to

Humans can also spread the disease to new areas or flocks, so anyone who handles birds is encouraged to follow biosecurity measures to help prevent further spread.

Bird rehabilitators, zoos and other places that house birds should use extreme caution when accepting new birds, and bring their birds indoors, or maintain separation from wild birds in a covered area to reduce risk.

The best form of flock protection is maintaining strong biosecurity standards. Biosecurity includes limiting the number of people who interact with your birds, washing hands before and after handling the birds, and having dedicated clothing and tools for each flock. More information can be found through ISDA and USDA:

USDA APHIS | Defend the Flock Program
Avian Species – Idaho State Department of Agriculture

With fair season approaching, ISDA has developed guidance for organizers of poultry exhibitions and exhibitors. These materials can be found on the ISDA website.