As the H5N1 virus spreads around the world, a polar bear has reportedly died from bird flu in Alaska.
Report by guardiansaid this is the first reported case of a polar bear dying from avian influenza, citing information from the Alaska Department of Environmental Protection.
The polar bear was found dead near Utkiagvik in December.
An Alaska veterinarian told the Alaska Beacon that the bear was scavenging for the carcasses of infected birds.
Polar bears are classified as “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species due to climate change and a decrease in snowfall due to global warming.
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The veterinarian said there could be more deaths of polar bears from the H5N1 virus, but they likely would go unnoticed because polar bears live in remote areas.
The current virus outbreak, which began in 2021, is estimated to have killed millions of wild birds worldwide. The H5N1 strain has been circulating in more than 80 countries since 2022. It is primarily spread through wild waterfowl, but also poses a potential threat to poultry and other birds.
Thousands of animals, including black bears and brown bears, have also died from the virus. In recent months, bald eagles, foxes and kittiwakes have died from the virus in Alaska.
The H5N1 virus has already spread to the Antarctic region. Last year, hundreds of elephant seals were found dead in the southern part of the continent. Deaths of fur seals, kelp gulls, and black skuas are also on the rise in the region.
Scientists have previously said that if this harmful virus reached remote penguin populations, it could cause “one of the greatest ecological disasters of our time.”
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