Turkey Virus Alert in New York and Maine

Officials in both New York and Maine have issued alerts asking spring turkey hunters to help them identify birds that may be suffering from Lymphoproliferative Disease Virus (LPDV). The virus, which causes Elephant Man-like lesions on a turkey's head and legs, has already been found in the Maine population while biologists in New York are seeking further information to determine whether the disease has impacted their flock.

According the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife: "It (LPDV) is thought to spread between turkeys by direct skin contact or through mosquito bites. Some turkeys can fend off minor infections and survive while others can develop extreme lesions that inhibit their sight and ability to eat, which ultimately leads to death.

"The disease poses no risk to human health. However, like all infections, caution is advised while handling a bird with LPDV. There is a potential for secondary bacterial infections if birds are handled improperly. Thoroughly cooking the meat to an internal temperature of a minimum of 165°F is also advised.

"Although wild turkeys cannot pass this virus on to humans, if you shoot a bird and you do not want to eat it, do not register it and please contact a Wildlife Biologist at one of the regional offices or call the Department of Public Safety in Augusta at (800) 452-4664 to be connected with a game warden. After examining the bird, the department staff member will determine your eligibility to harvest another turkey.

"Little is known about the origin of LPDV in the United States. LPDV was first detected in domestic turkeys in Europe. Since that time, we have confirmed several cases throughout the state. Currently, known cases occur virtually wherever wild turkeys are present.

New York biologists, who are attempting to determine reasons behind wild turkey population decreases in the state, ask that samples from suspect birds be provided to the Department of Environmental Conservation's Wildlife Health Unit. For instructions on how to provide a sample contact: fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us. The New York DEC advises against eating any wild animals that appear sick.