Wildlife Mass Mortality By the Numbers

Between the news reports, Jon Stewart’s repeated references on The Daily Show and animal-costumed Saturday Night Live cast members, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the recent wildlife die-offs spinning news media and public alike into a tizzy. One thing repeatedly mentioned in these news stories is the statement from wildlife officials that mass mortality events are fairly common. Well, I decided to take a look. Below you’ll find the quick and dirty breakdown by the numbers. Warning, this might be my “Debbie Downer-ist” blog post yet.

USGS National Wildlife Health Center Mass Mortality data for 2010-present, represents only the Lower 48

72: Wildlife die-off events in the past year

29: States where these events occurred

8,560: Most deaths in one state (Minnesota), mostly waterbirds from a mix of toxins, parasites and viruses

10: Number of mass die-off events in Minnesota last year

4,300: Largest die-off event in 2010

13: Die-offs with 500+ deaths

85: Percent of total mass-mortality events that involved birds

Wildlife Mass Mortality by Animal Type

Wildlife Mass Mortality by Animal Type (by Morgan Heim)

10 Largest Mass Mortality Events 2010-Present

Approx. # Killed

Cause

Minnesota

Waterbirds

4,300

Parasites

Arkansas

Red-winged Blackbirds

3,000

Trauma

California

Northern Fulmar

2,750

Emaciation

Texas

Brazilian Free-tailed Bat

2,000

Rabies

Idaho

Tiger Salamander

1,500

Virus

Minnesota

Waterbirds

1,450

Virus

Minnesota

Waterbirds

1,200

Parasites

Florida

Vultures and Hawks

900

Drowning, Emaciation

Minnesota

Waterbirds

800

Open Investigation

South Dakota

Waterbirds

700

Botulism C

Michigan

Gulls

700

Botulism E

Other Interesting Factoids

  • Species of waterbirds appear to be the most frequent victims of mass die-off
  • Bats suffering from white-nosed syndrome were not represented in USGS data.
  • Data does not include several mass fish death events from the past year, including more than 100,000 in the Arkansas River in 2011, 20,000 menhaden in Hampton Roads, Virginia, July 2010; 100,000s menhaden on Folly Beach, South Carolina, as of January 7, 2011.
  • Also notably missing from this data appear to be wildlife mortality events from much of the Gulf Coast.

http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/mortality_events/index.jsp

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10 Largest Mass Mortality Events 2010-Present

Approx. # Killed

Cause

Minnesota

Waterbirds

4,300

Parasites

Arkansas

Red-winged Blackbirds

3,000

Trauma

California

Northern Fulmar

2,750

Emaciation

Texas

Brazilian Free-tailed Bat

2,000

Rabies

Idaho

Tiger Salamander

1,500

Virus

Minnesota

Waterbirds

1,450

Virus

Minnesota

Waterbirds

1,200

Parasites

Florida

Vultures and Hawks

900

Drowning, Emaciation

Minnesota

Waterbirds

800

Open Investigation

South Dakota

Waterbirds

700

Botulism C

Michigan

Gulls

700

Botulism E

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2 responses to “Wildlife Mass Mortality By the Numbers

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