Yorkshire seabird colonies to be monitored for bird flu outbreaks


Following concerns that bird flu is spreading to marine mammals, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has said seabird colonies will be monitored for the virus.

Their concerns come after a dead Harbour Porpoise found in East Yorkshire last month tested positive for the H5N1 virus. Government health officials have said that the risk of the H5N1 strain to non-avian UK wildlife remains low but, despite this, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust stated seabird colonies would be keeping tabs for outbreaks.

Seabird colonies in East Yorkshire will be tested for bird flu (Matthew Mellor).

Trust spokeswoman Ana Cowie said: "We're very lucky in Yorkshire to have a wealth of incredible wildlife along our coastline and the fact that this is transferring between species is really, really concerning. Our seabirds are just returning to the Yorkshire cliffs now so we'll be watching very carefully to check for signs of avian flu."

A report by the UK Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) said 21 dead mammals, including seals, dolphins, foxes and otters, had tested positive at various locations around the UK since the start of 2022. APHA said that although avian flu predominantly affected birds "the virus can infect mammals".

It said samples taken from the porpoise in East Yorkshire and two dolphins in Wales and Devon had detected the presence of the H5N1 virus.

"The animals were found dead, and it is very likely they had predated on infected wild birds," an APHA spokesperson said. "The presence of influenza of avian origin in mammals is not new, although it is uncommon, and the risk of the H5N1 strain to non-avian UK wildlife remains low."

The agency warned people not to touch any sick or dead wild animals and to wash hands thoroughly with soap after contact with any animal.