Keep your dogs on leash and away from the shoreline! We are experiencing an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), commonly known as bird flu, has the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) closing public access to Rat Island near Fort Flagler State Park. Dozens of Caspian terns have died in the area and there are more that appear sick. Samples from bird carcasses were collected and have tested positive.
The HPAI virus occurs naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect poultry and other bird and animal species. The virus is contagious among birds through saliva, nasal secretions, feces, and contaminated surfaces.
WDFW is asking the public to avoid contact with sick or dead birds and/or seals as a preventative measure. Also do not attempt to transport them to a veterinarian or a private property for treatment. Moving sick animals can spread the virus to areas where it did not exist before. Please keep pets away from bird carcasses or sick birds to avoid exposure to HPAI.
Public access to Rat Island had recently been discouraged to reduce disturbance to the tern colony and harbor seal pups present there, and shellfish harvest is closed around the island, but extreme low tides have led to more foot traffic to the island from Fort Flagler State Park. Staff are posting “closed” signs and information on HPAI around the island, the campground, and the boat launch. Keeping humans out of the area is a preventative measure and helps prevent the spread of the virus.
Please help spread the word about this closure and not touching sick or dead wildlife.
Video link - https://youtu.be/2O8lkNfFnmo
Presenter: Katie Laushman
Wildlife Area Manager
North Olympic and South Puget Sound Wildlife Areas
Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife
Friends of Fort Flagler has been working with Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to provide some protection to Rat Island during the Caspian Tern nesting and Harbor Seal pupping season which occurs during July and August.
The goal is to have docents posted at the end of the Fort Flagler spit, across from Rat Island during extremely low tides. There will be signage discouraging folks from walking or kayaking on the island. The docents will take the opportunity to answer questions and talk about the value of protecting the habitat and wildlife, and how our presence may disturb the chicks and pups.
WDFW prepared training materials (from April lecture) - see below.
Seals on the Beach - Online Training for Rat Island Docents