the spread of the virus to new species poses potential risks to wildlife and provides the virus with new chances to mutate and adapt to mammalian hosts.
This strain of bird flu, known as Eurasian H5N1, has spread rapidly through domestic poultry, affecting tens of millions of farmed birds, according to the Agriculture Department. Compared to previous versions of the virus, this lineage has taken an especially heavy toll on wild bird populations, felling eagles, owls, pelicans and more.
That, in turn, has put mammals that encounter wild birds at risk. As the outbreaks expanded this spring, the virus turned up in foxes, bobcats, skunks and other species. The virus has also been blamed for a spike in seal strandings in Maine, where bird flu has been detected in both gray and harbor seals.