SAN DIEGO – Untouched for most of the year, the Avian Flu has now made its way to San Diego County. A wild white pelican was recently found dead at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, marking the second case in the area. 

After tests from a state lab, it was found that the bird tested positive for HPAI, also known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. HPAI is contagious and could potentially turn fatal. It affects all species of birds but typically spreads amongst wild birds during seasonal migrations. 

It’s worth noting that the wild bird was not in the care of the safari. 

Even before an employee stumbled upon the dead pelican found in the pond, several precautionary efforts were in place to prevent the flu from spreading. You may have noticed if you visited recently, some birds aren’t where you would typically find them. The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance notes that their team has been monitoring the situation with care and are taking “…the necessary measures to protect birds living at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.” The park has moved 900 birds into protected habitats from migratory birds. 

“In some cases, it has meant moving birds…really the one item that someone who may come to the zoo or park may notice is that some of our birds are not in their usual homes and you’ll find them somewhere else where they are more protected more sheltered from wild birds,” said Hendrik Nollens, Vice President of Wildlife Health for the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. 

This comes on the heels of the discovery of a dead black swan who also tested positive at Lake San Marcos.

“Then, about a month ago, there was the first report in San Diego County so we know that it’s been around, we know it’s been in wild birds,” Nollens said. 

Project Wildlife with the San Diego Humane Society is helping monitor the flu in the area and says the bird flu’s landing in San Diego was both expected and inevitable.

“As the birds have come down south we’ve seen it and that’s kind of what we were expecting but hoping would not happen,” said Dr. Jon Enyart, senior director with Project Wildlife. 

Dr. Enyart suggests the community stay on guard and keep an eye out for dead birds. Ducks, geese and waterfowl in general are most susceptible to the virus.

“If they seem suspiciously off, a lot of it’s gonna be neurological symptoms like being off balance and having trouble walking. The other big symptom is with the respiratory system…you’re gonna see troubles with breathing and congestion, maybe even coughing and sneezing,” Dr. Enyart said. 

If you happen to notice any of these symptoms observing wildlife or even your pet, you can report the issue to Project Wildlife with the Humane Society for any further help or care. 

The recent outbreak is also making it difficult to deliver Thanksgiving turkey from farm to table. It’s bad timing for Noel Stehly with Stehly Farms Organics in Valley Center as the holiday inches closer.

“I still have a good 10-12 days before we start processing birds and I can’t lose them. They’re presold. These people want this for their dinner. This is dealing with the mother of the bride and I’m gonna tell her she doesn’t have a venue,” Stehly told FOX 5 as he laughed nervously.

The effects are also now trickling down to store shelves. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, prices for whole birds are jumping up $1.99 per pound.