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Iowa turkeys to be pardoned virtually due to bird flu

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Squash, a tom turkey, and companion hen Stuffing appear to listen intently as Gov. Kim Reynolds reads a proclamation Tuesday outside her Terrace Hill residence pardoning the two birds ahead of Thanksgiving. While Squash and Stuffing are “free to roam” at Living History Farms in Urbandale “for the rest of their days,” according to the governor’s pardon, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig told the governor, Iowa Turkey Federation leaders and other dignitaries that “there are plenty of turkeys. Buy two. Get a big one, they’re great for leftovers.

DES MOINES — An annual tradition is heading online as state and agriculture officials exercise caution with the threat of bird flu looming.

Gov. Kim Reynolds will pardon two turkeys via video Tuesday morning, the governor’s office said Monday.

The annual tradition typically is conducted at the governor’s mansion on Terrace Hill in Des Moines. But avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, has been infecting flocks throughout the Midwest, including in Iowa, since March.

With that specter looming, officials determined it was unsafe to transport turkeys this week.

Instead, Reynolds will record a video message that will be published Tuesday morning on the governor’s social media accounts, a spokesman said.

“Iowa’s turkey pardoning event is something the governor looks forward to every year, but with a statewide order currently in place to protect flocks from the threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza, the turkeys won’t be transported to Terrace Hill,” Reynolds spokesman Alex Murphy said via email.

The state agriculture department on Nov. 10, for the second time this year, issued an order canceling all live bird exhibitions and other gatherings of birds. The previous order was issued March 23 and lifted June 3.

The most recent confirmation of a new case of bird flu came Oct. 31 in a commercial flock in Wright County. It was the 21st confirmed case this year.

The 2022 bird flu has not been nearly as destructive as 2015, when more than 31 million birds died or were euthanized, causing $1.2 billion in economic damage, according to one report.

Reynolds also Tuesday will participate in the annual tree-lighting ceremony at the Iowa Capitol.

Reynolds is not expected to field questions at the tree-lighting event, her spokesman said. Reynolds has not held a formal gathering with statehouse reporters since July. Earlier this month, she was elected to another four-year term.

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