Nearly 100 birds, including ducks, chickens, pheasants and peacocks, have been euthanized after avian flu tore through O’Keefe Ranch, a popular tourist spot in BC’s Okanagan region.
Ranch manager Sherrilee Franks said the outbreak began with a ranch favorite, an eight-year-old turkey named New Orleans. He died earlier this month, and it was assumed it was due to old age, until one of his female counterparts perished the following day.
Franks said they reported the deaths to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which has been tracking avian flu cases nationwide since December.
“There were more birds dying so we were pretty certain this was going to be a positive, so we had quarantined everything off through the weekend, just kind of waiting for the results and always hopeful that it was not going to be true,” Franks said.
On Sept 18, the CFIA confirmed avian flu was making its way through the ranch.
“It’s been pretty much tears since then,” Franks said.
Avian flu is a contagious virus that impacts food-producing birds, pet birds and wild birds. According to the CFIA, in most cases there are little or no signs of illness in infected birds. The current strain, H5N1, tends to cause serious disease or mortality in domestic poultry.
When avian flu is detected in a flock, the surviving birds are typically euthanized to avoid further spread.
An estimated 2.7 million birds have been impacted by the H5N1 virus in Canada.
BC’s Ministry of Agriculture is hosting an information session about avian flu in Williams Lake on Tuesday, Sept. 27, to educate farmers on how to protect their flocks.
O’Keefe Ranch was established in 1867 as a working cattle ranch. In 1967, it was opened to the public and has since become a hot spot for tourists and locals to learn about farming and agriculture.
A section of the ranch will remain under quarantine as they work to decontaminate the area, a process that could take “several weeks.”
However, it will remain open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays until the end of October.
“We feel confident the remainder of the grounds are safe and we are happy to report the other animals at the ranch have not been affected,” Franks said.
“This has been a very trying time for everyone involved.”