The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is participating in a national surveillance effort to test waterfowl for the presence of avian influenza. Testing began this summer as part of IDNR’s annual waterfowl banding work and will continue with hunter harvested ducks this fall and winter.

Avian influenza in 2015 has affected more birds than any other U.S. state. However, most of those confirmed cases were in commercial egg operations and little is known about how widespread the virus has been in wild birds in the state.

The project is coordinated by the USDA Wildlife Services that is targeting watersheds by season. This fall, hunters in the Upper Mississippi, Iowa, Skunk and Wapsipinicon River watershed and the Chariton and Grand River watershed may be asked to have samples collected from their harvested ducks. Later this winter, the focus shifts to the Missouri and Little Sioux River watershed.

“We are targeting dabbling ducks – teal, gadwall, widgeon, mallards are the highest priority and hope to fill our sample quotas on the opening day of regular duck season,” said Orrin Jones, waterfowl biologist with the IDNR.

Watersheds were selected based on the likelihood that dabbling ducks would be intermingling with other ducks and were assigned quotas to determine if avian influenza is present in the watersheds: 60 samples, 80 samples and 140 samples, respectively.

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Collection takes only a few minutes and no hunter information is taken. Hunters can be notified of the results if they choose.

While the sample collection is focused on specific watersheds, Jones asked that hunters from all parts of the state call the IDNR if they find five or more dead ducks in an area.

“That is a situation we would like to investigate,” Jones said.

The last case of avian influenza detected in Iowa was confirmed in a commercial egg operation on June 19.