ITHACA, N.Y. (WETM) – The DEC is looking into a possible bird flu outbreak at an Ithaca game farm that has affected the pheasants there, but the department said the risk to people is low.

The DEC said that it suspected an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) at Reynolds Game Farm near Ithaca. According to the announcement, the department received reports of “suspicious deaths” of pheasants on March 20, and early tests pointed to an outbreak of the H5N1 virus.

The announcement said that the bird flu has previously been confirmed in Tompkins County since it started making its way through North America in early 2022. The farm confirmed with WETM’s sister station in Syracuse that it was under quarantine, as directed by the USDA and NYS Ag & Markets.

“The Game Farm employs rigorous biosecurity protocols, including fencing and overhead netting to prevent large birds like hawks, owls, ducks, geese, and gulls from getting into the pens. Staff also conduct regular disease surveillance,” the DEC said. The department also said the pheasant flock at Reynolds is certified with the USDA, meaning it’s monitored for bird flu and other diseases.

The DEC, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working together “to determine next steps at the farm.” The CDC said that bird flu “does not present an immediate public health concern”, risk of human infection is low, and symptoms in people are rare and mild.