Four Colorado mountain lions died from avian flu, but mammal crossover has slowed

Bobcats, skunks, foxes and a bear have all died of the bird disease, but state wildlife officials say trends are better now

Michael Booth
The Colorado Sun
Canadian geese look for leftovers in a field at Salida, on March 29. Colorado wildlife officials are watching closely as the spring bird migration continues, hoping to avoid the large wild bird kills and mammal crossover deaths from avian flu’s 2022 epidemic.
Michael Booth, The Colorado Sun

Four mountain lions are among the Colorado mammals felled by a crossover of the avian flu epidemic to larger animals, but state wildlife officials say the trend has slowed even as they warily eye the spring bird migration.

The bird-borne flu has also killed two bobcats, multiple skunks, two red foxes and a bear in Colorado since Jan. 1, according to records kept by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The current outbreak of avian flu has killed thousands of wild birds and required the destruction of millions of egg-laying poultry since early 2022, with Colorado’s mass kills repeated in dozens of states. 

State animal health experts, though, note that the last dead mountain lion was collected Feb. 14, in Grand County. A skunk in Chaffee County was confirmed as an avian flu death April 3. But before that, the last mammal recorded as an avian flu crossover death was a skunk collected March 2 in Larimer County. 

A bear was discovered in Huerfano County in early January. Experts believe the mammals acquire avian flu by feeding on bird carcasses infected with the “highly pathogenic” version of the flu now circulating throughout the country. Crossover to humans in the current outbreak has been extremely rare so far. 

Read the full story at The Colorado Sun.

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