Technology to blame for animal die-off panic

Warren Watkins/The Daily Citizen  /  EPA

Seth Borenstein

WASHINGTON — First, the blackbirds fell out of the sky on New Year’s Eve in Arkansas. In recent days, wildlife have mysteriously died in big numbers: 2 million fish in the Chesapeake Bay, 150 tons of red tilapia in Vietnam, 40,000 crabs in Britain and other places across the world.

Blogs connected the deadly dots, joking about the “aflockalypse” while others saw real signs of something sinister, either biblical or environmental.

The reality, say biologists, is that these mass die-offs happen all the time and usually are unrelated.

Federal records show they happen on average every other day somewhere in North America. Usually, we don’t notice them and don’t try to link them to each other.

“They generally fly under the radar,” said ornithologist John Wiens, chief scientist at the California research institution PRBO Conservation Science.

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