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Scientists Investigate After Large Number Of Dead Birds Discovered In New Mexico

When you hear enough about the plight of endangered animals, you start to notice some themes in how they came to be that way.

For some, the issue is that they're the target of widespread poaching for certain parts that are either used in traditional remedies or as status symbols. For others, the problem is more indirect and concerns extensive habitat loss from logging and mining operations.

But while conversations face an uphill battle when there are clear forces threatening an animal population, it's even more concerning when there's a legitimate mystery behind what's happening to them.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the exact problem that birds in New Mexico are experiencing right now.

Be advised that this article contains images that may be disturbing to some readers.

On Septmber 12, Allison Salas at New Mexico State University informed the public that hundreds of dead birds were being reported throughout New Mexico.

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As she tweeted out, this spike of fatalities seemed to start within the last two weeks.

As NMSU professor Martha Desmond told KOB4, "It appears to be an unprecedented and a very large number. It's very difficult to put a finger on exactly what that number is, but I can say it would easily be in the hundreds of thousands of birds."

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Alongside researchers at NMSU, personnel at the Bureau of Land Management and staff at the White Sands Missile Range have launched an investigation into why this is happening.

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As NBC News reported, the military testing site typically sees about a half dozen dead birds over the course of a week.

But over the last week, that number has jumped up to "a couple hundred."

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Although the reason for this wave of bird deaths remains unclear, researchers are looking into some possibilities.

Twitter | @salasphorus

As KOB4 reported, one potential factor is that a cold snap recently passed through the state throughout the past week.

Drought conditions could also be a potential reason for the issue, as could the smoke released from the west coast wildfires.

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In the case of the fires, it's possible that the birds' lungs were damaged by smoke or that the fires forced them to migrate before they were prepared to do so.

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As the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife tweeted out, "Not much is known about the impacts of smoke and wildfires on birds."

Premature migration may also help to explain why Salas noted that the birds she's been examining are in relatively good condition aside from malnutrition and a lack of fat reserves.

Whether that's because they had difficulty finding food or because they were flying until it wasn't physically possible anymore remains to be seen.

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This wave of fatalities has also coincided with a phenomenon of birds landing on fishing boats along the Pacific coast.

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To help get to the bottom of the issue, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking anyone who's discovered a dead bird or witnessed an abnormal sighting to contribute to an online database found here.

Desmond also warned citizens to use gloves or a bag to pick up any dead birds found and not to directly touch them with their hands.

h/t: KOB4, NBC News

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