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West Nile Virus found for the first time in Michigan ruffed grouse

Alan MacMillan

Five ruffed Grouse infected with West Nile Virus have been found four Michigan counties.

The birds were harvested between August and October in Delta, Roscommon, Missaukee, and Iron Counties.

John Pepin is with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He said humans generally catch the virus through mosquito bites.

“Ruffed grouse is a significant indicator only because a lot of people hunt ruffed grouse and eat ruffed grouse and so they’ve had concerns about finding this virus in game birds. We’ve previously found it in turkey and mallards but this is the first time we’ve found it in ruffed grouse.”

But, said Pepin, the DNR isn’t concerned about the virus spreading from grouse to humans as long as the bird is well cooked.

“In some rare situations it can cross over to people but not from eating grouse, we have no evidence of that, or from other infected animals.”

Pepin said it’s not clear what impact the virus will have on Grouse.

“Scientists don’t have any consensus at this point on how ruffed grouse populations will be affected by West Nile Virus. Some suggest it would reduce populations but on the other hand not every bird that gets the disease dies from the disease.”

He said if hunters want to be sure a bird is virus-free, they can have it tested by the DNR.

Michigan has had 39 cases of West Nile Virus this year.