On 1st October, DEFRA announced a number of changes to the way it monitors wild birds that may be carrying bird flu.

With immediate effect, birds shot as part of normal wildfowling activities will not be sampled.

Instead, DEFRA’s extended warden patrols will provide the service required.

However, BASC’s Tom Blades, who has responsibility for monitoring bird flu, told Shooting Times that wildfowlers could still be asked to help gather samples: “BASC wildfowlers have played an important and fully recognised role in the government’s monitoring of bird flu over the years. The use of a warden patrol scheme will replace a number of surveillance techniques including shot bird sampling, though wildfowlers could be called upon to provide birds in the future. Despite this change we will continue to learn from and develop our response to bird flu to ensure that shooting activities are not disproportionately affected in the event of future outbreaks.”

The new surveillance strategy for 2008/2009 will help identify any change in risk to poultry and other kept birds from bird flu.

According to DEFRA, the changes are being brought in as a result of increased scientific knowledge and practical experience in handling incidences of the disease.

The changes have been recommended by epidemiologists, discussed with expert ornithologists and endorsed by the Animal Disease Policy Group.

Skilled wild bird ecologists and wardens will make year-round patrols in designated reserves.

They will collect both live and dead wild birds, in particular, gulls, duck, geese, swans and waders, for bird flu testing.

The rest of this article appears in 9 October issue of Shooting Times.

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