Mass Animal Die-Offs
Mass Animal Die-Offs

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A sign of the Aflocalypse!

It was a slow news day.

That's my best explanation for why this "story" grew legs and went around the world. In early January, 2011, thousands of birds and fish were found dead in Arkansas.

As is typical with these bouts of internet hysteria, the initial reports lacked some specific details that were not available at that time. Nobody knew what killed the animals, or if the two instances were related. However, the story made the news, and was immediately picked up on the internet. The lack of specifics was an opportunity for speculation, and pretty soon the speculation began.

We have already commented on the ability of the 2012 proponents to shoehorn any unusual event into "evidence for 2012". This story was no exception.

Eventually the investigation produces results, but by then the rumor has already started, and the story has gone worldwide. As Charles Spurgeon is reported to have said: "A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on." In this case, the deaths of animals was being reported as unusual. These 'unusual' events were being reported on the internet. The news media were picking up the reports off of the internet, and in a perfect storm of social media and news media feedback, were building on each other in a crescendo of nonsense, while nobody was asking the serious questions.

Were the deaths unusual?

No. They are not.

The American Bird Conservancy notes that of the 5 billion annual bird deaths, about 1 billion birds are killed each year in collisions with buildings, communication towers, windmills and other human-made structures. We just never hear about them unless such deaths happen in clusters and are reported in the media….1

Anybody who wishes to peruse the causes and numbers of wildlife deaths only has to visit the USGS website. Within a few minutes of looking, we found several instances of very large die-offs.

You can also listen to a podcast from the USGS regarding the bird deaths.

What caused the deaths?

In the case of the initial reported bird kill in Arkansas, it was noted in the original article2 that there were loud booms heard the night before. Eventually the investigation uncovered the facts:

It was someone shooting off professional grade fireworks in a residential district, scaring the night-blind birds out of their roost into a 25-mph flight that ran them into houses, signs and even the ground, says Karen Rowe, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission ornithologist.

"They were bouncing off houses, basketball backboards, trucks," she says.3

As Michael Shermer commented:

The American Bird Conservancy notes that of the 5 billion annual bird deaths, about 1 billion birds are killed each year in collisions with buildings, communication towers, windmills and other human-made structures. We just never hear about them unless such deaths happen in clusters and are reported in the media, thereby triggering a type of mass hysteria that leads to conspiratorial thinking and what I call patternicity: the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise.

Redondo Beach (March 2011)

On March 8th 2011 reports began arriving of another mass animal die off, this time in Redondo Beach, California. Early reports indicate a probable cause of a large school of fish entering the enclosed harbor area and rapidly depleting the available oxygen. This has been recorded before in Redondo Beach as well as other harbors4.

Louisiana (August 2011)

A Louisiana paper mill is closed while officials work to find the cause of a fish kill. Reports of dead or dying fish in Louisiana's Pearl River began on Saturday August 13th. Results from water samples are expected in four to five days. The dead fish include paddlefish, American eels, catfish and bass. The wide diversity of dead fish indicates a probable environmental cause.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/08/15/louisiana.fish.kill/index.html?iref=allsearch


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