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Mortality In Mass

This first week of the new year has proven to be devastating to certain animal species around the world.  Is it evidence of global warming?  Is it the first stage of whatever destruction awaits us in 2012?  Is it the irresponsible actions of mankind revealing it's impact on nature?  Or is it merely a strange and unusual coincidence?  Every body's got a theory.  If we were living in Biblical times, these events would surely be seen as the wrath of God, resulting in a plague on mankind.  But in the age of science, experts are pointing to anything from lightening strikes, fireworks displays, and electric power lines, to disease, poisoning and parasites.  But nothing has been concretely confirmed as the cause of death for the thousands of animals that seemed to have just dropped dead in their tracks, across the globe, in just one week's time.

The first story that I became aware of was the flock of more than 4,000 redwinged blackbirds that fell from the sky in  Beebe, Arkansas, on New Year's Eve.  A necropsy of the bodies revealed otherwise healthy birds, except for the severe hemorrhaging that likely killed them.  But what caused this flock-wide internal bleeding?  Were they really startled to death by the sonic booms of a nearby fireworks display, and then suffered internal damage when their fragile little bodies hit the ground?

While hearing of the birds in Beebe, it was then that I learned of the 80,000+ fish that washed up along a twenty mile stretch of the Arkansas River.  An incident that occurred just one day earlier.  Ninety five percent of these carcasses were drumfish, and so perhaps it was species specific disease.  There doesn't seem to be an explanation for the other five percent.

Around the same time that the fish were being discovered, a mixed flock of 450 birds fell dead from the sky in a town near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  They were mostly redwinged blackbirds, dappled with starlings, cowbirds, and grackles.  These "nuisance" birds often roost with blackbirds during migrations.

Four days later, up to 100 jackdaw birds in central Sweden fell dead from the sky, with no apparent explanation.  Twenty four of the hundreds, were found to have broken necks, backs, beaks, and wings.

On this same day, 200,000 fish washed up dead on Maryland's Chesapeake Bay shoreline.  They were mostly croakers, which are extremely temperature sensitive  This, and a massive croaker kill in January of 1976 and are believed to have been caused by the stress of unusually colder water temperatures.

All of this news has brought attention to a mass kill in Kazakhstan that occurred in May of 2010, where a herd of 12,000 saiga antelope were found dead.  The World Wildlife Fund has classified these animals as critically endangered, when the population suffered a ninety five percent population decline between 1995 and 2009.  There are reports that a similar incident occurred earlier, where a strange white fog had been seen in the area.

I understand that these things happen naturally from time to time, and nature has her own reasons for bringing them about.  But when several similar incidents occur in such a short time span, maybe we should really take a look at what might be happening on our planet.  Could humans be next?

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