Fish & Wildlife | Ecotrope

Fish and bird die-offs are not the end of the world

Ecotrope | Jan. 7, 2011 9:17 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:42 p.m.

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After 5,000 redwing blackbirds rained from the sky in Arkansas, eight other mysterious die-offs were reported in the news, leading some to wonder if we are seeing the apocalypse (or “aflockalypse” as some were calling it). Everyone has been asking what caused the die-offs and are they connected? A Google map illustrating all the recent mass deaths has been circulating around the Internet over the past couple days.

But don’t worry, the U.S. Geological Survey and Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson told the Associated Press. It’s not the end of the world.

In fact, these kinds of die-offs, and others much worse than these, happen all the time for a variety of reasons. There are so many mass wildlife deaths, in fact, that many don’t even get reported, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s wildlife disease specialist LeAnn White.

The USGS has counted 95 mass wildlife die-offs in North America over the past eight months – 900 turkey vultures in the Florida Keys, 4,300 ducks in Minnesota, 1,500 salamanders in Idaho … the list goes on.

An average of 163 such events are reported to the feds every year, the USGS reports. Cold weather, pollution, disease, parasites and, yes, even fireworks, are to blame.

But Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson also blames technology for the most recent scare. WIth so many people reporting their own die-offs via text and on the Internet, the events seemed a lot scarier and rarer than they actually are.

“Not to worry,” Wilson told the AP, “these are not portents that the world is about to come to an end.”

However, he added, there are thousands of slower mass extinctions of species around the world that should be cause for concern.

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