• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 36s

Hundreds of dead puffins found on St. Paul Island may be linked to warmer ocean temps

By Lauren Maxwell 8:51 PM December 7, 2016

Scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say warming ocean temperatures could be contributing to a new round of seabird deaths.

Seabird biologist Kathy Kuletz says nearly 300 tufted puffins have washed up on the shores of St. Paul Island in Alaska’s Pribilof Islands since early October. It’s a significant number of deaths, according to Kuletz, since usually only two or three dead puffins show up a year.

She also said there are likely to be many more that haven’t been found.

“It’s likely that most of the birds don’t wind up on shore or, if they do, they get covered up by snow or ice or rocks on the beach or they get taken by scavengers,” Kuletz said. “So this probably represents a small portion of the birds.”

It’s reminder of what happened in the last year, when thousands of dead murres, another seabird, littered beaches from the Aleutians to Prince William Sound. This time, said Kuletz, the numbers are smaller, but the problem seems to be the same.


Thousands of dead seabirds wash up in Whittier

Seward volunteers tracking dead murre numbers in Alaska’s Resurrection Bay

Sea birds found starving, unable to fly throughout Southcentral Alaska

“They are still being tested, but certainly the immediate cause is starvation and that means something’s wrong with their food source,” Kuletz said.

Scientists say warmer ocean temperatures may be making it harder for seabirds to find food.

Kuletz says that small fish and other marine life – which the birds eat – may be going deeper or further offshore to find colder temperatures. Or, it’s possible, the food may not be there at all. She says there’s been no sign of disease or parasites that might account for the deaths.

Nearly every bird is discovered emaciated.

Crested Auklets are among the seabirds discovered dead recently at St. Paul Island.

Crested Auklets are among the seabirds discovered dead recently at St. Paul Island. / Courtesy St. Paul Sentinela

The worst of the die-off may be over, according to Kuletz. No new dead puffins have been discovered in the Pribilofs since November 23.

As for the murres, Kuletz said they are no longer washing ashore like they were a year ago but she warns of another concern.

“After having a couple warm years and then having the die-off last year, quite a lot of colonies had no breeding attempts at all or they started late and they weren’t able to breed chicks,” said Kuletz.

She’s afraid the effects of the die-offs could last for many years to come.

KTVA 11’s Lauren Maxwell can be reached via email or on Twitter.

Latest Stories

  • Cougars make Bartlett feel at home with all-inclusive trip

    by Dave Goldman on May 22, 21:58

    They may compete on the field, but in the end, they’re one team. It showed more than ever on senior night. At a recent game while honoring their own, the Service High School girls soccer team also graciously extended a warm welcome to their opponent, Bartlett. But this was nothing new and is four years […]

  • News

    ‘Just get help’: Family of woman killed in boyfriend’s apparent suicide attempt speaks out

    by Daniella Rivera on May 22, 21:52

    It’s been 33 days since 22-year-old Brittany-Mae Haag’s family learned they’ll never see her again. “[Police said] that it was a shot from Victor Sibson, that he shot my daughter,” said Sheila Lopez, Haag’s mother. Lopez spent the majority of the month since her daughter died thinking Haag’s boyfriend of six years, 21-year-old Victor Sibson, killed her […]

  • APD investigating Government Hill shooting

    by KTVA Web Staff on May 22, 21:30

    Anchorage Police say they’re investigating shooting in the Government Hill area. Late-Monday evening, officers were called to the parking lot of a Subway at Hollywood and Vine where they were seen taking photographs of a yellow vehicle. KTVA’s reporter on scene says blood could be seen in the parking lot near the vehicle. After it […]

  • News

    Hiland Mountain plant sale starts Tuesday

    by Lauren Maxwell on May 22, 20:21

    The plant sale at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center is an event that some people wait all year for. Not just the people who come to buy beautiful hanging baskets but the inmates who grow them, as well. The sale has been going on for at least 20 years, according to Superintendent Gloria Johnson. Most of […]

  • Politics

    Alaska House approves measure limiting opioid prescriptions

    by Liz Raines on May 22, 20:14

    On Monday, the Alaska House passed a bill to limit initial opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply. House Bill 159 is part of a push from Governor Bill Walker’s administration to address the state’s growing opioid epidemic, which Walker declared a disaster in February. While members of the House spent nearly four hours debating the […]

  • Politics

    Sullivan’s town hall highlights senators’ difference on Planned Parenthood funding

    by Heather Hintze on May 22, 20:07

    Senator Dan Sullivan’s (R-Alaska) town hall in Anchorage over the weekend highlighted how he and fellow republican Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) differ on funding for Planned Parenthood. He discussed a variety of topics from fighting opioid abuse to diversifying our economy, but it was the topic of healthcare that really got the crowd engaged. “My […]

  • Weather

    Record rainfall recorded across SE Alaska

    by Melissa Frey on May 22, 17:18

    Significant rain fell across most of Southcentral and Southeast Alaska this weekend as a storm system moved in from the Gulf of Alaska. For Southcentral, this was the wettest day seen in months. Anchorage picked up 0.25 inches of rain on Sunday alone. This was the most rain recorded in Anchorage since late-September of 2016. […]

  • News

    Search underway for 2 overdue boaters

    by KTVA Web Staff on May 22, 17:13

    Late Monday morning, a search began for two overdue boaters in Togiak. The Togiak Village Public Safety Officer contacted Alaska State Police around 11:15 Monday morning to report two overdue boaters. Troopers say Simeon Wassillie and Stephanie Poulsen, both 25, left the village on Saturday in an 18-foot, blue, open hull, 35hp boat and were […]