It’s scary enough when birds mysteriously die in flight and fall from the sky. It’s truly dangerous when those birds are geese and they fall by the thousands. That was the situation in southern Idaho the weekend of March 14-15, 2015, when thousands of migrating geese had their flights cancelled by something that mysteriously killed them.
The snow geese were on their annual spring migration north from locations in the southwestern United States and Mexico to their breeding grounds in northern Alaska. Mud Lake, northwest of Idaho Falls, and Market Lake are popular resting stops for migrating waterfowl and that’s where most of the carcasses of the fallen geese were found. Others were also seen at the Camas National Wildlife Refuge near Dubois.
About 2,000 dead geese were picked up and incinerated by wildlife officials after a few were sent to the Idaho Fish and Game Wildlife Lab for testing. Unfortunately, about 20 bald eagles were seen near the geese before they could be picked up. Wildlife officials are warning local residents that there could be more occurrences of falling geese and to call them immediately if they see it happening or find carcasses.
So what killed the snow geese? Wildlife officials were quick, as always, to suspect avian cholera, which they say can kill birds in flight. Those that attempt to land may fly upside down, try to land while still in the air and swim in circles. It’s interesting that the “avian cholera” reason is, in this case as well as many others, usually prefaced with “suspected” and often followed by “wildlife officials are puzzled,” as was the case in geese falling from the sky in Toledo, Ohio, in 2011 and in Oregon in 2005. Why were these cases puzzling?
While avian cholera is said to pose “little risk to humans,” the wildlife officials tell people to stay away from the dead geese. Are they dealing with something more sinister than avian cholera?
As I’ve said before, birds of any kind and size falling from the sky is never a good thing. It’s worse when the cause is “suspected” and the experts are “puzzled.” Why aren’t we getting better answers?