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Cameras Document Poultry-Wildlife Interactions

The role of wildlife in disease transmission within and between poultry farms is a sure-fire conversation starter wherever poultry industry professionals gather. A University of Minnesota research project led by Sally Noll, an Extension specialist in poultry and professor in the Department of Animal Science, and Gary Wyatt, an agroforestry educator with University of Minnesota Extension, is shedding light on wildlife activity around poultry facilities. Especially what happens after dark. 

The team selected turkey farms with varying landscapes around the farm and installed game cameras—five per farm—to monitor activity near barns, compost/litter piles, and farm borders. The most common types of animals identified by the camera traps were deer, rabbits, possums, various birds, feral cats, coyotes, raccoons, and foxes.

Preliminary information indicates that mortality composters are attractive to possums and raccoons. Crows were observed occasionally at these locations. On one site, when mortality composters were active, images taken (possums and/or raccoons) averaged 42 images over a 24-hour period. After the composter was cleaned out and a trapping program was implemented, the average dropped to 1.4 images per 24 hours.

The presence of carnivores (mammals and birds) that could feed on domestic poultry and also various wild birds are seen as high-risk wildlife for possible avian influenza transmission and potentially other avian diseases such as fowl cholera. While it is too early to answer carnivore-related questions, the team will continue to process images from the camera traps. There is potential that this project will yield actionable strategies for producers to use to minimize interactions between wildlife and poultry.

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