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Seeing a Diseased Turkey and the Next Steps

THROWBACK TT Oct 5th, 2021 – This Turkey Tuesday is about an emerging issue being discussed by wild turkey managers and researchers – lymphoproliferative disease virus (LPDV). LPDV was first recognized in domestic turkeys, but is now being observed commonly across wild turkey populations in both the United States and Canada. LPDV is a cancer-causing virus that can be fatal to turkeys, and infected birds will sometimes show signs of tumors in the skin around the head and neck. Is the bird in this first photo infected with LPDV (notes lumps in dewlap)? It’s hard to say simply by looking at him, because bacterial and fungal infections may cause similar looking growths. The bird in the second and third photos provided by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia died from LPDV, and shows telltale tumors around the head and neck, as well as around organs (on left in 3rd pic). Some birds infected with LPDV may have lesions on their head and feet similar to avian pox lesions, and some LPDV infected birds also test positive for pox. Infected birds may act disoriented or show signs of weakness, but they may also show no outward signs of being infected. Ongoing work in Maine is showing that LPDV-infected hens have smaller clutch sizes, and that hens may be more likely to be infected than toms. It also appears that adults are much more likely to be infected than juveniles. So is LPDV a significant mortality factor at a population level? We really don’t know, which is why research is ongoing testing prevalence at broad spatial scales, trying to identify routes of transmission, and evaluating potential effects on survival and reproduction. The take home is, if you see a bird showing signs of LPDV or other diseases known to affect wild turkeys, alert your local wildlife agency. © Tes Randle Jolly

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