Thousands of snow geese have died in a freak ‘incident’.
The birds that usually fly south for the winter were looking for their normal migration path when something went horribly wrong.
A catalog of unusual events led to them being forced to land in a toxic ‘abandoned mine’ pit which let to their untimely deaths.
The snow geese usually spend this time of the year migrating to warmer climates and their inbuilt radar systems means the trip normally goes off without a hitch, but this time fate was against them.
This year the geese migrated later than normal, and this coupled with a freak snowstorm that occurred when the birds where trying to find their path meant they made the unusual decision to pitch down for the night, but the spot they chose could not have been more unfortunate.
The geese landed at Berkeley Pit, a highly toxic abandoned mine shaft which is now home to 900-feet of highly toxic water.
The well water is said to be contaminated with mining by-products such as arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, copper, iron, zinc and is so corrosive it has been known to melt the bottom of a boat’s hull. The geese stood no chance.
Montana Resources are currently in charge of the pit, who say they did everything they could to try and get the flock to leave after they descended in November. It must seem like a perfect landing spot for the birds who have no idea of the man-made damage than has been done to the area before it is too late.
Monanto Resources Environmental affairs manager Mark Thompson said:
“I can’t underscore enough how many birds were in the Butte area that night,”
“Numbers beyond anything we’ve ever experienced in our 21 years of monitoring by several orders of magnitude.”
Employees of Montana Resources say they worked tirelessly to try and the get the geese to leave after realizing the magnitude of the situation. They shone spotlights on the birds and fired shotguns and rifles in an attempt to scare the birds away, and it is estimated that in time, around 90% of the birds where scared away to safety.
Despite most of the birds being saved, a huge number still perished, due to the vast amount that were in the flock. Harper’s Magazine also reported on a similar incident which happened at the spot back in 1995, where 342 birds were killed.
“In each bird autopsied, the oral cavity, trachea, and esophagus, as well as digestive organs like the gizzard and intestines, were lined with burns and festering sores.”
Photo Credit: Jason Savage and The British Trust for Ornithology