An outbreak of avian flu was confirmed at Spallumcheen’s O’Keefe Ranch on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (Historic O’Keefe Ranch/Facebook)

An outbreak of avian flu was confirmed at Spallumcheen’s O’Keefe Ranch on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (Historic O’Keefe Ranch/Facebook)

Avian flu outbreak hits North Okanagan’s O’Keefe Ranch

Several birds have died and a section of the ranch has been quarantined

Birds at Spallumcheen’s O’keefe Ranch have been infected with avian flu.

The ranch said the outbreak was confirmed on Sunday, Sept. 18.

“This has been a very trying time for everyone involved and there have been many tears shed,” said ranch manager Sherrilee Franks.

The outbreak was declared by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which noted the birds were non-poultry, meaning the birds were kept in a single household for use within the same household, or for reasons other than the production of animal products.

The avian flu (H5N1) is a federally regulated disease that is spreading worldwide with the first instance reported in B.C. occurring in the North Okanagan on April 13. Previous outbreaks in the province occurred in 2004, 2014 and 2015.

O’Keefe’s birds remained winterized for an extended period to reduce exposure, and even then the ranch says the birds remained quarantined in their pens for months afterwards.

“Our birds are pretty spoiled,” said ranch hand Tambria Shortt. “We knew the quarantine was hard on them when our male tom turkey, New Orleans, decided to sit on a clutch of chicken eggs. He was even a great mother after they hatched. This is just a really hard thing to go through.”

As the summer progressed, the ranch started letting birds out on a rotational basis, which continued into September.

The first death was the eight-year-old New Orleans, and there was hope the death of the popular bird was not related to avian flu. The sudden death of a few birds shortly afterwards raised some red flags and authorities were called.

The ranch says it worked with authorities through the process of culling and is continuing work on decontamination.

A section of the ranch will remain quarantined until the decontamination is completed, which is expected to take at least several weeks.

Franks says the ranch will stay open to the public with “very clear boundaries in place.”

“We feel confident the remainder of the grounds are safe and we are happy to report the other animals at the Ranch have not been affected,” Franks said.

The O’Keefe Ranch is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until the end of October. More information can be found at okeeferanch.ca.

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Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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