Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Apocalypse or Just Another Day on the Planet Where Large Amounts of Wildlif Die

eMany of you have heard about the "rare" occurrence of 5000 blackbirds dropping dead in Arkansas and dozens of jackdaws falling from the sky in Sweden along with a few hundred turtle doves in Italy. At least the last one sounds like a scrooge-like Christmas prank. Nevertheless, should I take out my bible and read about the signs of the apocalypse? According to many scientists, mass animal deaths are not a rare occurrence. According to the National Wild Life Center in Madison, WI, which has been tracking mass animal deaths since the 1970s, there have been 188 cases just involving birds with mortality exceeding one thousand per event over the last ten years.

There are a variety reasons besides the "Act of God" that causes these deaths, such as animal starvation, animals eating toxic foods or getting poisoned by people. Some people hypothesized that the massive bird death in Arkansas could have been due to New Year fireworks scaring birds and causing them to fly into buildings, trees and other large hard objects.

According to the US Geological Survey, on average, there are between 160 to 200 such "mass death" events in the wildlife reported each year. In fact, there have been much larger bird deaths than the ones that just happened. In 1996 more than 100,000 ducks died of botulism in Canada.

So should we be afraid? Perhaps not, but then again there are some events that concern the science community, such as over one millions bats dying over the last three years due to the fungal affliction called "nose syndrome." Bats help in pollination of plants and reduce the mosquito population.

In the end, these rare occurrences are not so rare. At the same time, we should still be concerned that the wildlife is dying off in large amounts. It might not be the apocalypse; however, it could be a sign that the ecosystem is deteriorating. Also, certain populations like bats dying off can have significant impacts on our lives. So next time you see a bird slam into your window, you can sit back and relax knowing that its just a "natural" occurrence. Just make sure you stock up on mosquito repellent.

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