LAFAYETTE — A less than half-mile stretch of the Sussex Branch Trail was closed over the weekend after state Division of Fish & Wildlife officials last week said more than 100 black vultures had died in the vicinity this month due to avian influenza.

More commonly known as bird flu, the cause was identified Thursday as the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees Fish & Wildlife, said it is monitoring the situation along with the state Department of Agriculture.

The trail closure, announced Saturday, is between Route 94 and Morris Farms Road in Lafayette and will continue until further notice, according to the official Facebook page for the Division of Parks & Forestry, State Park Service.

NJDEP said black vultures are "seemingly very susceptible" to avian influenza, in part because they scavenge the carcasses of other dead vultures, resulting in a prolonging of any outbreak.

Map of Sussex Branch Trail closure
Map of Sussex Branch Trail closure (New Jersey State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites via Facebook)

As improper handling can also cause disease spread, officials said the Sussex County birds will be left to decompose for now because the state lacks personnel certified to deal with infected specimens.

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Additionally, rough terrain has also been causing accessibility issues, according to Fish & Wildlife.

The state stressed that the risk of bird flu being transmitted to humans is "very low."

Anyone with questions can call the state Department of Agriculture at 609-671-6400.

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