It was announced that a polar bear died in Alaska due to the new bird flu epidemic that started in 2021. Experts said it was a first.

According to The Guardian, the polar bear's death from bird flu caused by the highly contagious H5N1 virus was made public by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation in December. "This is the first polar bear death reported anywhere," Alaska state veterinarian Bob Gerlach told the Alaska Beacon.

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The polar bear was found dead near Utqiagvik, one of Alaska's northernmost communities, nearly two months after the last strain of the virus was detected in North America. Gerlach said the polar bear had likely eaten dead birds carrying the disease. Gerlach said more bears may have died from the disease because they were in remote areas with fewer people.

Speaking about the virus, which is thought to have killed millions of wild birds and thousands of mammals, including black and grizzly bears, around the world in the last three years, Diana Bell, Emeritus Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of East Anglia, pointed out that bald eagles and foxes have also died of avian flu in recent months and said, "It was in Alaska; now it's mammals in the high Arctic Circle... This is terrible," he said.

The first known cases of H5N1 in the Antarctic were detected in October 2023 among brown skua seabirds on Bird Island. Two months later, hundreds of seals were found dead.