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Wanted: Wild turkey and ruffed grouse hunters for West Nile virus research

A University of Guelph researcher has a call out to wild turkey and ruffed grouse hunters in Ontario and Quebec for a West Nile Virus study. Amanda MacDonald wants to find the number fowl that have been exposed to the West Nile and where they are.

U of Guelph researcher wants to know where they are located and how many there are

A researcher at the University of Guelph needs the help of wild turkey and ruffed grouse hunters for a West Nile Virus study. All the hunters need to do is collect blood samples from birds they have harvested, and mail it in. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

A University of Guelph researcher has a call out to wild turkey and ruffed grouse hunters in Ontario and Quebec for a West Nile virus (WNV) study.

Amanda MacDonald, a visiting researcher at the University of Guelph in the Department of Pathology wants to find the number fowl that have been exposed to the virus and where they are.

"Since West Nile tends to fluctuate over the years, we can see what parts of the province it might be consistent in," said MacDonald. 

"Are there hot spot areas that might be looked at down the road when managing these populations? Or even for humans? You know if the virus is prevalent somewhere, it helps with human surveillance as well."

All hunters need to do is collect blood samples from birds they have hunted and harvested and mail the sample in. Researchers will provide hunters with a filter strip to collect blood, and a postage-paid envelope.

This research is completely different from an ongoing project by Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, which asks hunters to report any dead wild birds found during the respective hunting seasons, MacDonald said.

Hunters in Ontario and Quebec have provided 215 grouse and turkeys to MacDonald's study, which were collected between September and December of 2018.  

Of those, MacDonald said four of eight wild turkeys and eight grouse were found with West Nile antibodies.

Eighteen other grouse returned with what is called the flavivirus, which MacDonald said means they most likely have WNV, but researchers can't confirm it.

MacDonald hopes to spend three more years researching.

Interested hunters can contact her on her Facebook page: Ontario and Quebec Wild Turkey Disease Research, or through email: amacdo21@uoguelph.ca.

Dr. Amanda MacDonald is leading research on the number of wild turkey and ruff grouse in Ontario and Quebec exposed to the West Nile Virus. She is recruiting hunters to help. 5:25

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