'Aflockalypse' Hits California
(Highway 101, shown in red; Credit: Nick Nolte)
The reason for the bird deaths remains a mystery.
None of the small brown and black birds, probably from the same species, had been shot. Officers say it is unlikely that such a large number of birds were simultaneously hit by a semi truck. A warden from the California Department of Fish and Game took away several of the birds for testing by a biologist, California Highway Patrol Officer Jon Sloat said.
These CA bird deaths are just the latest in a string of puzzling mass animal die-offs that have occurred over the past month. On New Year's Eve, up to 5,000 red-winged blackbirds fell from the sky in Central Arkansas. Some 300 miles away, about 500 birds were later found dead in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana.
During this same general time period, 700-1,000 turtle doves fell from the sky in Italy,two million dead fish washed up on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. Forty thousand devil crabs also washed up dead along the Kent coast in the U.K.
The list goes on.
Most animal experts believe the events are not connected, but Google Maps is now tracking the recent animal deaths.
Today the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced that anyone with an Internet connection may report sightings of sick or dead wild animals through the Wildlife Disease Event Reporter (WHER), a website developed recently by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison.
Even if "Aflockalypse" is not really upon us, dead or ailing animals can indicate significant threats to human health. Three-quarters of all recent emerging infectious diseases in people began as animal infections, most of them in wildlife. Avian influenza, SARS, West Nile virus and rabies are just a few of the human diseases in which wildlife play a role.
WHER, according to its creators, "is designed to help wildlife and human health officials detect outbreaks, wherever they may occur, more quickly than before."