What’s going on in Arkansas: Thousands of dead fish and birds found in Arkansas

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What’s Going on in Arkansas: Thousands of dead fish and birds found in Arkansas

Just one day before some 5,000 blackbirds fell from the sky in Arkansas, piles of dead fish turned up on a nearby shore, though wildlife officials say it’s just a coincidence.

On Thursday, officials discovered between 80,000 to 100,000 dead drum fish along a 32 km stretch of the Arkansas River near Ozark.

Mark Oliver, chief of fisheries for the state’s Game and Fish Commission, said the fish probably died of disease. He insists there’s no connection between the fish deaths and the 5,000 blackbirds that fell dead from the sky on New Year’s Eve just 200 km away in the community of Beebe.

“We don’t see any possible way they’re related,” said Oliver. “It’s just a coincidence, but an interesting one.”

The birds started dropping at around 11:30 p.m., landing on cars and homes, lawns and roads.

The fish and bird deaths have prompted Christian media to quote Bible passages warning about the end times, while conspiracy theory websites tout it as evidence of UFOs. But the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission assures there’s a scientific explanation.

About 65 of the dead birds have been sent to the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission lab and the National Wildlife Health Center lab in Madison, Wis., for testing. Fish samples have been sent to the University of Arkansas for testing. Results are expected in two to three weeks.

The commission believes lightning or fireworks caused the blackbird deaths. In a statement, ornithologist Karen Rowe said this sort of thing has happened before in other countries.

“Test results usually were inconclusive, but the birds showed physical trauma and that the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail,” Rowe said.

She said fireworks shot off in the area could have startled the birds from their roost, causing them to die of stress.

Oliver said disease likely killed the fish, because nothing else would knock out just one specific species. He said that while the number of fish that turned up Thursday is unusually high, fish often die en masse for all kinds of reasons.

“There’s little fish kills all the time,” he said. “It’s not something we’re surprised would happen.”


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