Dec 30, 2016
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Thousands of snow geese were burned and poisoned to death when they landed in a Montana mine tailings lake filled with acid and toxic metals.
The 700-acre Berkeley Pit is a massive crevice left behind from nearly 30 years of copper mining. It filled up with water 900 feet deep, which then accumulated toxic levels of inorganic compounds including arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, copper, iron and zinc. The water is as acidic as distilled vinegar, strong enough to liquefy the steel propeller of a motorboat.
The pit is a Superfund site and also a tourist attraction, where people pay $2 to see the toxic, reddish water. It has also become renowned as a location to study extremophiles, microorganisms that can persist in conditions toxic to most life.
Flock of unprecedented size
The Pit is maintained by mining companies Montana Resources and Atlantic Richfield, which since 1995 have been responsible for preventing birds from landing in the toxic lake. In late November, an off-duty Montana Resources employee called to notify Berkeley Pit staff that a flock of about 25,000 snow geese was in the air about 25 miles away.
– “Mind Blowing”: Die-off in Pacific far worse than anything ever seen before — Expert: Alarm over what’s happening in ocean — Deaths puzzling gov’t scientists, “I’ve never heard of such a thing anywhere in world” — Reports: Beaches full of bodies… Countless carcasses — Official: We want to know if it’s related to Fukushima (VIDEO):
AP, Mar 24, 2016 (emphasis added): Alaska’s massive seabird die-off spreads… Federal biologists last week walked… Katmai National Park and counted 2,000 dead seabirds… “[That’s only] a hint of what probably was there… every beach we looked at had dead birds” [US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Robb Kaler said]… “if we had rakes we would have found a lot more,” [said retired USGS biologist Tony DeGange]… [Officials surveyed the area] in 2009 and 2012 [and] counted zero and 14 common murres… Last week [they] counted hundreds.
AP, Mar 24, 2016: Seabird die-off takes twist… thousands of common murres were found dead [in an Alaskan] lake… experts were puzzled. “We’ve talked about unprecedented things about this die off. That’s another one,” said [USGS biologist] John Piatt… “6,000, 8,000 birds in the lake is pretty mind-blowing, really… I’ve never heard of any such a thing anywhere in the world.”… [F]ederal agencies are trying to determine if the murre deaths are connected to lack of food… or something else…”This is the thing about this die-off,” Piatt said. “We don’t even know what we don’t know.”
Read more“Mind Blowing”: Die-off in Pacific far worse than anything ever seen before — Expert: Alarm over what’s happening in ocean — Deaths puzzling gov’t scientists, “I’ve never heard of such a thing anywhere in world” — Reports: Beaches full of bodies… Countless carcasses — Official: We want to know if it’s related to Fukushima (VIDEO)
Watch the video here:
As he walked on a beach in the western Prince William Sound town of Whittier, seabird biologist David Irons was startled when he saw hundreds of white lumps on the black rock beach.
They were dead seabirds, in what he would discover were likely record numbers, a sign the ecosystem was being troubled by abnormally warm ocean water.
The dead birds, common murres that had starved, were lined up and left where the tide had dropped them on the shore.
“We have never found close to 8,000 birds on a 1-mile long beach before,” Irons said of his early January discovery. “It is an order of magnitude larger than any records that I am aware of.”
– “Mind-blowing” die off of seabirds underway from California to Alaska — Experts: “This is unprecedented… Worst I’ve ever seen… Why they’re dying, I’m still baffled” — “Every bird we’re seeing is starving to death… Basically withering away” — “Catastrophic molting” due to unknown cause (VIDEO):
San Francisco Chronicle, Oct 15, 2015 (emphasis added): [T]housands of common murres… have been found dead… “all signs point to starvation from a lack of forage fish,” [Marine ecologist Kirsten Lindquist] said, adding that the same problem has been documented along the Oregon, Washington and Alaska coastlines… many endemic marine birds and mammals are suffering.
International Bird Rescue, Sep 22, 2015: An unprecedented number of exhausted, hungry seabirds continue to flood International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center… The sight of so many starving seabirds has raised red flags among seabird scientists…
Read more“Mind-blowing” die off of seabirds underway from California to Alaska — Experts: “This is unprecedented… Worst I’ve ever seen… Why they’re dying, I’m still baffled” — “Every bird we’re seeing is starving to death… Basically withering away” — “Catastrophic molting” due to unknown cause (VIDEO)
– Die-off of birds all over Alaska beaches, floating in Pacific — “They seem to be starving” — Record-breaking spike in rescues, “such a dramatic increase” — Deformed and abnormal animals reported (PHOTOS & AUDIO) (ENENews, Aug 8, 2015):
KBBI, Aug 4, 2015 (emphasis added): Bird Death Reports Are Up In Homer, Food Sources Possibly To Blame — The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is receiving multiple reports indicating a significant increase in dead and dying birds found on beaches… Leslie Slater is the Gulf of Alaska Unit Biologist for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge… says there are a lot of potential reasons for the increase in fatalities but the prevailing cause is likely tied to the birds’ food sources. “What we’re seeing more precisely is that birds seem to be starving. That’s sort of the ultimate cause of their deaths but something might be happening before that… biotoxins can build up through the food chain and ultimately cause the deaths of these birds.” These deaths don’t seem to be isolated to Homer’s beaches. There are reports of similar deaths down the Alaska Peninsula and the eastern edge of the Aleutians. Slater says it’s possible they could be related to dead whales found near Kodiak… She warns the public not to touch dead birds because they could be carrying disease.
Read moreDie-off of birds all over Alaska beaches, floating in Pacific — “They seem to be starving” — Record-breaking spike in rescues, “such a dramatic increase” — Deformed and abnormal animals reported
– US Gov’t: “We don’t know what’s going on” in Pacific — Many ill baby seals being abandoned; Dozens of walruses found dead; Dying whales, birds, fish — “Unprecedented things happening” — Experts: “It’s been a very unusual marine mammal year… I’m really worried, very concerned” (AUDIO) (ENENews, Aug 7, 2015):
Alaska Dispatch News, Jul 24, 2015 (emphasis added): Ailing seal pup rescued in latest discovery of distressed Alaska marine mammals … one of a string of marine mammals injured or killed in Alaska waters this year. An orphaned and injured seal pup… was one of several found this summer, federal agency officials said… The pup was lethargic and very thin — only 16.5 pounds… It was the second such case this week, NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said Friday. An orphaned seal was picked up in Metlakatla… NOAA officials were also called out to another case in Yakutat recently, she said. “We don’t know what’s going on in the environment, but it does seem to be an unusual year,” Speegle said. Seal pups are not the only marine mammals experiencing some difficulty in waters off Alaska. NOAA and the University of Alaska Fairbanks are conducting an investigation into the deaths of 14 whales… U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been investigating the deaths of approximately 25 walruses found in the area of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge… Carrie Goertz, a staff veterinarian at the SeaLife Center, said… she agreed that there have been some out-of-the-ordinary events with marine mammals in general. “There’s definitely been some clusters of unusual deaths,” she said.
– Senior Scientist: “Birds in such bad condition” off West Coast — Zero babies survive on islands, usually over 15,000 — “Extremely poor” breeding success… they didn’t even try — Before and after photos show beaches deserted (VIDEO) (ENENews, June 11, 2015):
William J. Sydeman, Ph.D., President & Farallon Institute Senior Scientist, Pacific Anomalies Science and Technology Workshop, May 6, 2015 starting at 1:34:45 (emphasis added):
- This [chart] shows the nesting success of the brown pelicans in the Gulf of California… 2010-13, of about 22,000 pairs that are nesting, an average production of about 1 young per pair. In 2014… The productivity was essentially zero. So there’s very low breeding propensity and very low productivity.
- That’s what a typical colony looked like in Apr 2006… the same image in 2014 — so nobody was home.
- And then another place… Hermann’s Gulls its another species, this is what the colony looked like in May of 2004. And 2014, again nobody was home, no efforts [see photo on right].
Read moreSenior Scientist: “Birds in such bad condition” off West Coast — Zero babies survive on islands, usually over 15,000 — “Extremely poor” breeding success… they didn’t even try — Before and after photos show beaches deserted (VIDEO)
– Officials: “Such a bizarre thing” off California coast — “We’re seeing multiple aborted fetuses every day” — 100,000s of seabirds that nest in area now missing… “Huge, unprecedented die-off like we’ve never seen” — Many baby seals dying after mothers led them to a cliff edge… “Brutal to watch” (AUDIO) (ENENews, April 9, 2015):
KQED Science, Apr 5, 2015 (emphasis added): About thirty miles out from the Golden Gate, the federally protected Farallones are breeding grounds visited by hundreds of thousands of seabirds – many of which use the islands as a winter way station — but not this year. Gerry McChesney, manager of the site for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says that’s a bad sign not just for the Farallon Islands but also for wildlife more broadly along California’s coast. There was also hardship for breeding marine mammals. Dozens of pregnant sea lions proved too weak to carry their pups to term “That’s such a bizarre thing,” McChesney says. “We were seeing multiple aborted fetuses every day,” 94 in total – or nearly half the number of sea lions born there in 2014. Nor was the warm winter kind to elephant seal pups. Russ Bradley, Farallon program manager for Point Blue Conservation Science, says elephant seal mothers, trying to cool off amid the unusual heat, led their pups up to a cliff that, while breezy, proved perilous – “and actually had a fair amount of pups fall into this sea channel, because they’re pups and they’re clumsy and they got too close to the edge.” “It is pretty brutal for the biologists out here that had to watch it,” McChesney says. “It was pretty tough.” Among the conspicuously absent birds was a type called Cassin’s Auklet, which feeds on krill. All along the Pacific coast, McChesney says, these birds have been suffering “a huge, unprecedented die-off like we’ve never seen” for want of food. That’s also bad news for other species that eat krill, he says, from salmon to blue whales.
Read moreOfficials: “Such a bizarre thing” off California coast — “We’re seeing multiple aborted fetuses every day” — 100,000s of seabirds that nest in area now missing… “Huge, unprecedented die-off like we’ve never seen” — Many baby seals dying after mothers led them to a cliff edge… “Brutal to watch”