Since the turn of the year, the UK has been dealing with an unprecedented number of avian flu cases, with restrictions affecting poultry and domestic birds, and worrying reports of impacts on wild birds. Wiltshire Wildlife Trust manages over 40 nature reserves throughout Wiltshire and Swindon, including some wetland habitats with large numbers of bird species which are susceptible to contracting avian flu, such as canada geese and swans. 

Avian Flu Update 28th October – Test results confirm outbreak at Langford Lakes:

Over the past few weeks, we have been dealing with a suspected outbreak of avian flu at our Langford Lakes nature reserve in the south of Wiltshire. Our team were finding many dead or distressed birds at the reserve on a daily basis.

Test results have now sadly confirmed that recent bird deaths at Langford Lakes were the result of an outbreak of avian flu.

Whilst not over, the impact of the outbreak thankfully seems to be slowing, with only one report of a dead bird at Langford Lakes since early last week. The team remains vigilant and ready to remove any dead birds for testing as quickly as possible. As more winter migrant birds are poised to enter the UK over the coming months, this may spark off further cases.

Since avian flu has been confirmed at Langford Lakes and in other nearby areas, we continue to urge visitors to our reserves to take extreme caution and follow the rules listed below (see section ‘Rules for visitors to our reserves’).

Unfortunately, we have to maintain the restrictions that were put in place when avian flu was strongly suspected. Therefore all fishing and educational activities such a pond dipping at Langford Lakes will remain suspended for at least 30 days since the last dead bird has been found. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this causes, but with these measures in place we can protect our precious wildlife and prevent this virus from spreading further.

Thank you for your cooperation and support as we deal with this difficult situation.

You can help

Please report any dead birds to us that you find on our nature reserves:
Do not touch them.
• If you can, take a photograph and a What3Words location.
• Email: [email protected] 

Please do not report sick or dead birds to us that are not found on Wiltshire Wildlife Trust sites. To report dead wild birds found elsewhere, you should call the DEFRA helpline (03459 33 55 77) if you find:
• one or more dead bird of prey or owl
• 3 or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese and ducks)
• 5 or more dead birds of any species

In all cases, do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.
You can also visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu for more information.

Please note that we cannot provide advice about or respond to sick or injured animals, as Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is not an animal rescue charity or vet. RSPCA Oak & Furrows Wildlife Rescue Centre has confirmed that they are not admitting any water fowl or gulls. To contact the centre with any wildlife concerns, please call 01793 640136 (press option 2).

Rules for visitors to our reserves

Since we have had an outbreak of avian flu at one of our reserves, please follow the rules below to help us keep our wildlife safe whilst enjoying our much loved nature reserves:

  • Report dead birds on Wiltshire Wildlife Trust sites to us (refer to ‘You Can Help’ section above). Do not touch them.
  • Keep to the footpaths
  • Stay out of lakes, ponds and rivers
  • Keep dogs on leads and out of the water
  • Do not pick up feathers or touch/walk on bird droppings
  • Do not feed or handle wild birds
  • Follow good hygiene similar to Covid precautions, i.e. use hand sanitizer regularly and wash hands before/after your visit
  • Disinfect your clothing and footwear if you keep poultry or other birds at home

In rare cases, avian flu can infect humans and result in serious illness. By taking all necessary precautions, we can also help to reduce the risk to people.


FAQs

Why do I have to keep to the footpath and follow good hygiene when the risk to humans is low?

Whilst cases are very rare, if avian flu is transmitted to humans, it can result in serious illness. There is also a small chance that humans could transmit the virus to other animals such as pets or poultry or to wild birds at other locations. By taking all necessary precautions, we can help to reduce the risk of avian flu spreading to people and animals.

Why am I not allowed to feed the birds?

By not feeding the wild birds at our reserves, you will help to prevent the birds from congregating and therefore reduce the risk of the virus spreading among the birds. We recognise that people enjoy feeding the birds, especially children and families, but the developing situation requires extreme caution. Whilst providing a welcome treat, supplementary feeding is not essential for wild birds. We have temporarily suspended the sale of bird food at our cafes.

Why should I keep my dog on a lead?

Where dog walking is permitted, it is Wiltshire Wildlife Trust policy that dog owners should keep dogs on leads while walking in our nature reserves to help prevent disturbance to wildlife and livestock, and damage to the associated wildlife habitats. Keeping dogs on a lead and out of the water during this time of concern for avian flu will limit the chance of contact with sick or dead birds. Although the risk of your dog contracting avian flu is extremely low, your dog could become contaminated and spread it to other areas.

Please note that dogs are not permitted at Langford Lakes nature reserve.

Will Langford Lakes reserve remain open?

Whilst Langford Lakes reserve will remain open for now, we are monitoring the situation closely. We are taking advice from DEFRA and other organisations, and we are asking visitors to follow strict guidance such as not feeding or touching the birds and keeping to the footpaths. If the guidance is followed, the risk of transmission remains low. This is a dynamic situation, however, so please do check this webpage before visiting in case closures are put in place.

Why am I no longer allowed to go fishing at Langford Lakes?

This activity involves interaction with the water, often in close proximity to where birds gather and where droppings and feathers will collect. We will also need regular access to our river and lake for our staff and boat to look for and collect dead birds, so we need these areas kept clear.

We sincerely apologise for the impact this will have on the fishing community around Langford Lakes. We will try to re-instate fishing as soon as possible once we are assured the outbreak has passed, but for now we need to do all that we can to protect the precious birds which make Langford Lakes so special.

Why can my child no longer participate in pond dipping activities at Langford Lakes?

This activity involves interaction with the water, often in close proximity to where birds gather. Bird droppings and mud on surfaces by the water can collect in the soles of shoes worn by pond dipping participants, which can cause contamination, risking the spread of the virus.

We sincerely apologise for the impact this will have on children who enjoy taking part in these activities. We will try to re-instate pond dipping as soon as possible once we are assured the outbreak has passed, but for now we need to do all that we can to protect children and the precious birds which make Langford Lakes so special.

What should I do if I find a sick or injured bird?

Please note that we cannot provide advice about or respond to sick or injured animals, as Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is not an animal rescue charity or vet.

RSPCA Oak & Furrows Wildlife Rescue Centre has confirmed that they are not admitting any water fowl or gulls. To contact the centre with any wildlife concerns, please call 01793 640136 (press option 2).

I keep birds at home; what should I do?

If you keep poultry or other birds, wash your hands thoroughly, and clean and disinfect footwear before tending to your own birds if you have visited a reserve where wild birds are located.

What is Wiltshire Wildlife Trust doing in response to an outbreak?

  • Our team are working hard to remove any dead birds reported at Langford Lakes
  • We are in contact with DEFRA
  • We have set up close monitoring at our reserves, so we can act quickly if further cases of avian flu are suspected
  • We have stopped all fishing and pond dipping activities at Langford Lakes
  • Staff teams have been trained to be called to action should we need to remove dead birds from any of our sites
  • The required PPE, health and safety and biosecurity kit and procedures have been put together for staff in line with DEFRA guidance
  • Signage has been put up at the reserves most likely to be affected by avian flu, asking visitors to follow the rules and report any dead birds

What is DEFRA?

DEFRA is the government’s Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs. They are responsible for protecting the environment and support the UK’s food, farming and fishing industries.

DEFRA has published detailed guidance on how to spot avian flu, what to do if you suspect it, and measures to prevent it. You can visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu for more information.


We would like to thank visitors and supporters for their continued support in these concerning times. We will keep this page updated as and when the situation changes.

Stay Wild and Stay Safe.