A polar bear has reportedly died due to bird flu in Alaska as the H5N1 virus spreads across the globe.
A report by The Guardian, citing the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, mentioned that it was the first polar bear case reported who died due to bird flu.
The polar bear was found dead near Utquiagvik in December.
Alaska’s state veterinarian told the Alaska Beacon that the bear was scavenging on the carcasses of infected birds.
Polar bears are listed in the ‘vulnerable’ category on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of endangered species due to the loss of snow amid climate change and global warming.
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The veterinian said that there’s a possibility of more deaths of polar bears due to the H5N1 virus but would have gone unnoticed as they live in remote areas.
The current outbreak of the virus, which started in 2021, is estimated to have killed millions of wild birds globally. The H5N1 strain has been prevalent in more than 80 countries since 2022. It primarily spreads through wild aquatic birds but also poses a potential threat to domestic poultry and other bird species.
Thousands of animals have also died of the virus including, black and brown bears. In recent months, Bald eagles, foxes, and kittiwakes died in Alaska due to the virus.
The H5N1 virus has already spread in the Antartica region. Last year, hundreds of elephant seals were found dead in the southern continent. There have also been increased deaths of fur seals, kelp gulls, and brown skua in the region.
The detrimental virus could bring “one of the largest ecological disasters of modern times” if it reaches the remote penguin population, scientists said in the past.
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