Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

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Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Роберт » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:42 pm UTC

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nati ... 1037.story
Spoiler:
Thousands of dead fish washed up last week on a 20 mile stretch along the Arkansas River between Ozark and Clarksville. On New Year's Eve thousands of red-winged blackbirds tumbled from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas.

According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, a tug boat operator noticed thousands of dead drum fish. Experts estimate somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 fish died.

"This is really getting kind of crazy with the fish and the birds and these tornadoes hitting during the winter," said Denise Dickerson, of Ozark.

Scientists still cannot explain either incident for sure, but the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission believes the fish may have had a disease. Some experts think the birds may have been hit by lightning or hail, or may have been stressed out because of fireworks. "I just think it might be the way the weather's changing so much. One day it might be hot and one day it might be really cold," said Jon Rose Brammer.

Crews dressed in Hazmat suits collected the dead birds from a one square mile area near Beebe. "I'm wondering do we need the same thing because what makes that happen for them to drop out of the sky like that," said Melissa Weatherly, a Beebe resident.

According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, so far there is no sign that what killed the birds could hurt humans.
Some believe it is not a coincidence all the dead animals started showing up at once. "I'm just wondering, what's next really? What's next?" said Dickerson.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission does not believe these incidents are connected.

Game and Fish spokesman Keith Stephens says the aquaculture school at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff will conduct tests to determine the cause of the fish die-off. The results will take about a month to come back. Stephens says only one species was affected, which indicates the fish were sick.

Dozens of the dead birds will be sent for testing to the state Livestock and Poultry Commission lab and the National Wildlife Health Center lab in Madison, Wisconsin.

Both events seem interesting. While the events are probably not directly related, they often get mentioned together, and I thought it could just go in one thread.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:46 pm UTC

And this in news; Arkansas has schools?
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Triangle_Man » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:50 pm UTC

***Spolier Alert!***

Spoiler:
It turns out pollution's responsible!
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Роберт » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:52 pm UTC

Spoiler:
In that case we should stop polluting?
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby pseudoidiot » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:53 pm UTC

Explanation: the anti-christ was born around the end of the new year in central Arkansas.

Also, I was driving through that part of Arkansas just a few days before that happened. I swear I didn't do it.

Also, Also: http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/ ... ansas.html
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Dauric » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:56 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:And this in news; Arkansas has schools?


Sure, one of President' Clinton's great accomplishments when he was Governor of Arkansas was to take his state from 50'th in education to 49'th.

... ahem...

Back on topic:
Triangle_Man wrote:***Spolier Alert!***

It turns out pollution's responsible!


Got some linkage to back that up, or are you being as flippant as Izawwlgood and I (and apparently everyone else in the thread)?

Being less flippant, I think that it will be interesting to find out what actually happened, although if it's anything terribly mundane, at least by pop-culture standards could be fascinating by scientific standards (sudden large downburst hits migrating flock of birds for example) then we'll be lucky to get a passing reference to it by any media outlet.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Роберт » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:59 pm UTC

For the fish, they suspect disease, not pollution. For the birds, they suspect fireworks scared them enough that thousands of them died, not pollution.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Jessica » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:01 pm UTC

They also talk about the extremes in temperature/weather, which may or may not* be caused by pollution.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby broken_escalator » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:02 pm UTC

My uneducated guess for the fish would be red tide or algal bloom. Heavy metal poisoning would be a good guess on bird deaths if they eat fish but that many at once seems very wrong.

I've never heard of fireworks having adverse effects on birds like this before, but that seems a bit reasonable. Especially if the fireworks went off in close proximity to a group of birds.

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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Dauric » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:03 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:For the fish, they suspect disease, not pollution. For the birds, they suspect fireworks scared them enough that thousands of them died, not pollution.


I've got to be skeptical about the fireworks= fatal bird stress assumption. Fireworks displays happened around the world for decades and we don't have annual dead-bird pickups. Unless there's something specific about that fireworks setup (say it was set up on the edge of a wild bird preserve or something) but I haven't heard about anything unusual like that.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Роберт » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:05 pm UTC

The fireworks guess is amusing to me. The "massive down-burst" theory is interesting.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby pseudoidiot » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:09 pm UTC

Something else I read suggesting high-altitude hail or a lightning strike.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Jessica » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:11 pm UTC

pseudoidiot wrote:Something else I read suggesting high-altitude hail or a lightning strike.

The Article wrote:Some experts think the birds may have been hit by lightning or hail, or may have been stressed out because of fireworks.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby podbaydoor » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:13 pm UTC

Dauric wrote:
Роберт wrote:For the fish, they suspect disease, not pollution. For the birds, they suspect fireworks scared them enough that thousands of them died, not pollution.


I've got to be skeptical about the fireworks= fatal bird stress assumption. Fireworks displays happened around the world for decades and we don't have annual dead-bird pickups. Unless there's something specific about that fireworks setup (say it was set up on the edge of a wild bird preserve or something) but I haven't heard about anything unusual like that.

The town is a congregating spot for red-winged blackbirds.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/us/04beebe.html
Karen Rowe, the bird conservation program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said the prevailing theory was that the birds had been startled by New Year’s Eve fireworks and suddenly dispersed, flying low enough to run into chimneys, houses and trees. Pyrotechnics are used to scatter blackbirds for bird control, though only during the day, given the birds’ poor vision.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby bentheimmigrant » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:24 pm UTC

One of the things they backed the hail theory up with was physical trauma... Although if the birds fell 1000 feet, I would imagine that would do it to. The landing, I mean, not the fall.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Dauric » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:27 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:The town is a congregating spot for red-winged blackbirds.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/us/04beebe.html
Karen Rowe, the bird conservation program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said the prevailing theory was that the birds had been startled by New Year’s Eve fireworks and suddenly dispersed, flying low enough to run into chimneys, houses and trees. Pyrotechnics are used to scatter blackbirds for bird control, though only during the day, given the birds’ poor vision.


Again though, was this the first time the town had held a fireworks display? "Shovel up Dead Birds Day" doesn't sound like a bi-annual event (New Years and 4'th of July), or was it a matter that the birds aren't usually in town at this time of year? In which case it would be a combination of fireworks and climate change. So far they're just blaming the fireworks and nothing else.

bentheimmigrant wrote:One of the things they backed the hail theory up with was physical trauma... Although if the birds fell 1000 feet, I would imagine that would do it to. The landing, I mean, not the fall.


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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Korrente » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:43 pm UTC

It was storming that day. I'm pretty convinced that it was hail. While no hail hit the ground, if the birds were high enough or in clouds for some reason, they could easily have been hit by hail stuck in a cumulus cloud. Even if they weren't intending to fly into the cloud, a sudden and large updraft under a cumulus cloud could easily have carried them thousands of feet higher than they wanted very quickly. I don't think it's unreasonable to think that they were carried aloft quickly and froze to death or got pummeled by convective ice, then fell.

The microburst is an idea, but I feel like a bird of that size could just turn back into the wind, and with the shear amount of birds that were affected it doesn't seem likely that they were all in the exact center of the downdraft (the only area where the wind is really blowing straight down).

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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Heisenberg » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:43 pm UTC

Hundreds more dead red-winged blackbirds. This time in Louisiana.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40904491/ns ... ?GT1=43001

Weird. The article says that massive bird die-offs aren't uncommon, but it seems odd to go from one every 2 years to two within three days... and to the same species. I initially bought the "internal bleeding from blunt force trauma from being scared by loud noises at night and having very poor eyesight" theory, but a second instance seems to call that into question.

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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby CorruptUser » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:53 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:And this in news; Arkansas has schools?


There was an event in the 50s, in some backwoods part of Arkansas, involving black kids and whether or not they could sit at the learning hole. Maybe you heard of it?

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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Роберт » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:54 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:Hundreds more dead red-winged blackbirds. This time in Louisiana.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40904491/ns ... ?GT1=43001

Weird. The article says that massive bird die-offs aren't uncommon, but it seems odd to go from one every 2 years to two within three days... and to the same species. I initially bought the "internal bleeding from blunt force trauma from being scared by loud noises at night and having very poor eyesight" theory, but a second instance seems to call that into question.

If loud noises causes mass confusion that kills off birds, it seems like it should happen MORE often. Why does two of the 16 mass bird deaths occurring close together change that?
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Heisenberg » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:03 pm UTC

Because despite the article's assertion, once every 100 weeks seems pretty damn infrequent to me. Enough so that twice in one week seems odd. Also, one would expect this phenomenon to affect multiple species, but here we have two piles of identical dead birds, three hundred miles apart.

That's quite a coincidence.

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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Роберт » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:09 pm UTC

Perhaps you should take a statistics class. I would expect mass bird death occurrences to be something like a Poisson distribution.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Heisenberg » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:15 pm UTC

Well, it obviously depends on the cause, which is still unknown. If it really is loud noises, or pollution, I'd expect to see more incidents near large populations of humans, and fewer incidents in the middle of nowhere, Louisiana.

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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Dauric » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:23 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:Because despite the article's assertion, once every 100 weeks seems pretty damn infrequent to me. Enough so that twice in one week seems odd. Also, one would expect this phenomenon to affect multiple species, but here we have two piles of identical dead birds, three hundred miles apart.

That's quite a coincidence.


Not really. If there's no bird die-offs in the next four years then the average of one every two years is maintained. Simply saying that there's one every two years isn't accurate, there were 16 (recorded) incidents in 30 years. Four of those could have happened on the same day, then nothing for ten or twelve years before another incident. The distribution of those events (ie: the Poisson Distribution previously mentioned) matters.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Crius » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:49 pm UTC

I blame ball lightning.

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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Arancaytar » Wed Jan 05, 2011 9:42 pm UTC

pseudoidiot wrote:Explanation: the anti-christ was born around the end of the new year in central Arkansas.


Wait, that doesn't make any sense. I thought Obama was supposed to be the anti-christ.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby broken_escalator » Wed Jan 05, 2011 9:45 pm UTC

Glenn Beck has been known to tell a little fib here and there. So maybe Obama isn't the "anti-christ" but he still plans to feast on your kids souls. Yes he can.

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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Angua » Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:38 pm UTC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12118839

Well, now we have 50-100 dead jackdaws in Sweden. Very odd, and apparently there weren't any storms or fireworks there.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Inglonias » Wed Jan 05, 2011 11:37 pm UTC

Yeah, I was about to post that. However, there were only a few dozen in Sweden, rather than the 3,000 in Arkansas. That leaves the possibility of coincidence open in my mind.

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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby jakovasaur » Wed Jan 05, 2011 11:47 pm UTC

Considering these happened in Louisiana and Arkansas, doesn't anyone think the hundreds of millions of gallons of oil recently poured into the gulf might have some effect?

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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby broken_escalator » Wed Jan 05, 2011 11:51 pm UTC

A little oil builds character!

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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby bentheimmigrant » Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:45 pm UTC

jakovasaur wrote:Considering these happened in Louisiana and Arkansas, doesn't anyone think the hundreds of millions of gallons of oil recently poured into the gulf might have some effect?


For all the deaths to happen within hours of each other (in each incident), months after the oil spill? I'd be surprised. I'd expect a more drawn out series of deaths. Unless of course these were migratory birds, in which case they may have cut into their poisoned fat reserves at roughly the same time (but even that seems tenuous). But no, I don't think they're migratory (no Holy Grail jokes).
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Роберт » Thu Jan 06, 2011 4:25 pm UTC

Also, that doesn't explain all the dead fish in New Zealand.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/0 ... 04591.html

Really, the explanation that seems to sit best with me about the fish is unusual weather patterns are messing up equilibriums.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Wnderer » Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:35 pm UTC


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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Dauric » Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:47 pm UTC

I think at this point the fish kills are more disturbing than the dead birds. I mean when one of those articles describes "100 tons of dead sardines" and the realization sinks in that they've basically given up attempting to count the dead fish, they're just estimating the weight/mass of the whole thing, that's a hell of a lot of fish.

That said though, I wonder how much of this is that pattern recognition phenomenon where if you get interested in something, suddenly you see it everywhere. Like you buy a bicycle and start riding only to notice that it seems like suddenly everyone's riding bicycles, when in reality they'd always been there, it just wasn't something you'd been interested in so your brain didn't latch on to the pattern.

So we get a lot of dead fish in one place, coincidentally occurring with a bird-kill, and episodes of dead fish and dead birds elsewhere that before world-wide news networking and 24/7 news cycles would have gone un-noted (other than by biologists looking for disease amongst the affected species) suddenly become part of 'the larger pattern' because now everyone's looking for patterns with fish and birds.
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby dumbzebra » Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:26 pm UTC

Has anybody read "the swarm" by the german author Frank Schätzing?
I'm kinda reminded of it by reading this...
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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Jave D » Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:32 pm UTC

Dauric wrote:That said though, I wonder how much of this is that pattern recognition phenomenon where if you get interested in something, suddenly you see it everywhere. Like you buy a bicycle and start riding only to notice that it seems like suddenly everyone's riding bicycles, when in reality they'd always been there, it just wasn't something you'd been interested in so your brain didn't latch on to the pattern.

So we get a lot of dead fish in one place, coincidentally occurring with a bird-kill, and episodes of dead fish and dead birds elsewhere that before world-wide news networking and 24/7 news cycles would have gone un-noted (other than by biologists looking for disease amongst the affected species) suddenly become part of 'the larger pattern' because now everyone's looking for patterns with fish and birds.


Yes. For the reporters, it's called a bandwagon effect. Most notably the report of dozens of dead birds in Sweden. Now everyone and their mother is remarking on every dead animal they find and wondering what The Secret is. It's balloon boy all over again, except in that case there wasn't much of a bandwagon effect because as it turns out, little kids hiding and being thought lost by their parents is not that interesting a phenomenon.

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Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Dauric » Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:54 pm UTC

Jave D wrote:
Dauric wrote:That said though, I wonder how much of this is that pattern recognition phenomenon where if you get interested in something, suddenly you see it everywhere. Like you buy a bicycle and start riding only to notice that it seems like suddenly everyone's riding bicycles, when in reality they'd always been there, it just wasn't something you'd been interested in so your brain didn't latch on to the pattern.

So we get a lot of dead fish in one place, coincidentally occurring with a bird-kill, and episodes of dead fish and dead birds elsewhere that before world-wide news networking and 24/7 news cycles would have gone un-noted (other than by biologists looking for disease amongst the affected species) suddenly become part of 'the larger pattern' because now everyone's looking for patterns with fish and birds.


Yes. For the reporters, it's called a bandwagon effect. Most notably the report of dozens of dead birds in Sweden. Now everyone and their mother is remarking on every dead animal they find and wondering what The Secret is. It's balloon boy all over again, except in that case there wasn't much of a bandwagon effect because as it turns out, little kids hiding and being thought lost by their parents is not that interesting a phenomenon.


Slipping ever so slightly OT here, but I don't think the Balloon boy was really the same thing. I don't recall a wave of parents claiming their child was swept off in a home-made mylar balloon, while the child was just hiding in the house (Of course living in the state where it happened maybe our news was to focused on the primary event to report on other imitators).

I think Balloon boy was as big a deal as it was because it was unique, it elicited a massive response from the authorities across multiple counties (to the tune of a few million spent on search-and-rescue looking for and recovering the balloon and searching for the boy's body along the projected flight-path since it wasn't in the balloon), and the father claimed the balloon was part of some [tinfoilhat] science that would revolutionize energy production. When the boy was found, children will say the darndest things, it turned out that the whole thing had been staged by former "reality" show contestants trying to get another 15 min. of fame. The bandwagon effect for the reporters was more that they didn't have anything of interest in their own areas to report, certainly nothing as 'shiny' as the Balloon Boy, so Balloon-Boy made the news.

The dead birds/fish is more the exact opposite. They're not unique events, and once all the information comes out it's likely they're not even all that interesting (as opposes to BB's continual revealing of increasing nuttiness on the part of the Heany family), it's just that without all the facts these potentially otherwise unrelated incidents seem to form a pattern, when in reality it's just the brain making up the pattern like seeing faces in clouds.
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Don't call her Delphine.
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Location: UK/[St. Kitts and] Nevis Occasionally, I migrate to the US for a bit

Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Angua » Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:11 pm UTC

The bbc seems to be going for confirmation bias for why we're seeing so many deaths - this also offers some tentative explantions http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12135380
Crabtree's bludgeon: “no set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated”
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Technical Ben
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Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 10:42 pm UTC

Re: Strange death of birds and ~100k fish in Arkansas

Postby Technical Ben » Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:34 pm UTC

Don't small animals get swept into tornadoes and wind storms all the time? So a bunch got dropped off when the wind died down.
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