Mysterious death of dozens of birds leaves biologist perplexed

Apr 7, 2016 11:42 AM by News Staff

A mystery is unfolding in Shasta County hundreds of birds are found dead along Interstate 5. A wildlife biologist says this is highly unusual.

And Jim Wiegand is troubled.

“I’ve studied wildlife my entire life and I’ve never seen this, never seen this,” he said. “It's highly unusual.”

The wildlife biologist is trying to unlock a mystery that mystery lies in the form of dozens of dead birds all gathered within a 200 yard radius in the northbound lanes of Interstate 5, on the side of the road, and in the grass just south of the Mountain Gate exit in Shasta County.

“The majority of them are right in this area,” Wiegand said. “Only one or two across the center-divide on the other side of the road there's almost nothing that's another unusual thing.”

Wiegand drives this stretch of road all the time and, as a graduate of UC Berkeley, he's written numerous stories about birds.

“I don't see any signs of trauma disease,” he said. “And they are all in one tight location.”

As he picks up carcasses he plans to have examined, he wonders what could have happened.

“If they were all hit by a semi and a big group was crossing the road, where’s the signs of trauma,” he asked. “These guys look in perfect condition. Where’s the busted up smashed bodies? Where are the cripples? They're not all going to be dead, birds with broken wings can travel for miles on the ground.”

Many articles have been written about a phenomenon just like this one all over the country.

Starlings are considered a pest. They have been poisoned in the past. Wiegand said he doesn't believe that’s what happened here.

“Even if they were given poison seed, these guys would be scattered all over the place,” he said. “If they were shot with a gun they'd be going all different directions, they wouldn't just be all right here.”

Nor does he believe they were sick

“If it was an avian disease, why would all the bodies be in one place,” Wiegand said. "When birds are sick it takes them a long time to die. This is a sudden event.”

Whatever happened, is a mystery, one that may be hard to solve.

Calls to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Shasta County Animal Control were not returned.


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