MONTANA - Montana wildlife officials are recommending Montanans to either put away their bird feeders or frequently clean them during summer to prevent spreading diseases among birds, such as salmonella.

In a release, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said they received numerous reports recently of dead birds with crusty eyes found near bird feeders.

FWP said birds do not need additional food during summer because they normally eat insects during summer as they nest and rear their offspring.

Anyone who finds a dead bird speculated to be sick or dead birds around feeders should report it to the local FOWP office. FWP said people should put away bird feeders in this event, and clean up the ground underneath the feeder. 

After finding a dead bird, FWP said to place it in a double-bagged plastic bag and store it in a cool temperature location until reporting it to FWP because they might want a sample for testing. When handling dead birds, put gloves on and thoroughly wash hands after.

People should clean and disinfect bird feeders biweekly even if there are no signs of disease. FWP suggests distancing feeders away from each other or using feeders that only allow few birds at one time to prevent spreading diseases.

FWP offers the following bird feeder cleaning instructions:

  • "Clean your feeders with warm, soapy water. Disinfect with a 10 percent bleach solution to kill bacteria. Rinse the feeder and allow it to dry completely before using it again. Disinfect your birdbaths as well.
  • Clean your bird feeding area by washing all structures holding your feeders and raking the ground surrounding the feeders.
  • If you have observed sick or dead birds, do not reinstall your feeders for a few weeks. As birds begin to migrate and cease traveling in flocks, it will be okay to put feeders back up."

In addition, FWP suggests keeping bird feeders at least 10-feet above ground, at least 4-feet from trees and to bring them in at night to keep bears from reaching them. FWP said to permanently remove the feeder if bear activity is seen near the feeder.

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