• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
1m 52s

Scientists counting number of dead common murres in Southcentral Alaska

By Heather Hintze 8:33 PM January 7, 2016
ANCHORAGE –

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to figure out the magnitude of the common murre die-off around southcentral Alaska. There are more than 8,000 just on the shores of Whittier.

On Thursday, a team of biologists took a boat around Prince William Sound to see how widespread the problem is.

“One dead, 50 meters,” Tamara Zeller called out. “Another dead one.”

Zeller is an outreach biologist for Fish and Wildlife. She said her team takes estimates on the number of dead birds from the boat because it’s not possible to stop at every beach.

“I counted 400 but I’m sure there’s a lot more that you don’t see,” she said.

For a more accurate count, they have to get their boots on the ground.

“Like right here, you can see there’s a murre there you can’t see from the boat,” David Irons pointed out.

Carcasses littered beaches for miles outside Whittier.

“My guess from the boat was 98 and I counted 284 which is a lot more,” Zeller said.

Irons just retired from his job at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Now he’s volunteering his time to count the dead birds. He said there have been major common murre die-offie in Alaska before but this one is different.

“Scientists tend to get blasé about this but this is bigger than I’ve ever seen,” he said.

They know the birds are starving to death, they just don’t know why.

“Seabird biologists say seabirds are indicators of the health of the ecosystem. Now they’re dying and that is telling us something. We should be aware of that. If we don’t record they’re dying it goes unnoticed,” Irons said.

On Thursday, the rough estimate was about 3,000 dead birds. That’s just the first day in a four-day study with the U.S. Geological Survey, which also has a boat out in Prince William Sound. Next week the two organizations will get together to determine what the next step is.

While there’s nothing the can do to help the birds, biologists said it’s important to understand what’s going on as our climate continues to change.

Latest Stories

  • Lifestyle

    Bristol Palin announces she is expecting her third child

    by Associated Press on Dec 10, 10:44

    Bristol Palin is expecting her third child, she tells Entertainment Tonight. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s daughter announced her pregnancy on ET. She and husband Dakota Meyer said they are excited and “blessed” to welcome a baby in the spring. A Palin family spokesman declined to comment. Bristol Palin launched an abstinence campaign after giving […]

  • Troopers: Fairbanks woman arrested for death of domestic partner

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 10, 10:32

    Alaska State Troopers arrested a woman after her domestic partner was found shot to death in Fairbanks Friday night. According to an online dispatch, troopers were notified of a death at a Fairchild Avenue home around 11:30 p.m. They found 66-year-old Steven Halonen had succumbed to his injuries following a shooting. Mary Gansman, 47, faces […]

  • Lifestyle

    Eroding village to seek disaster designation for relocation

    by Associated Press on Dec 10, 10:28

    A western Alaska village is eroding due to climate change and officials plan to ask President Barack Obama for a disaster declaration so that federal funds can be pursued to relocate residents. Alaska’s Energy Desk reports that engineers predict as many as six Newtok homes will be lost by fall followed by the village school […]

  • News

    Tears, laughter and healing: Murdered teen remembered at Palmer vigil

    by Bonney Bowman on Dec 09, 22:23

    Hundreds of people braved single-digit temperatures to remember David Grunwald, the Palmer teen murdered almost one month ago. Family friends organized a candlelight vigil as a way to not just mourn the 16-year-old, but to take steps toward healing from the pain of his passing. “We just want to get back to the core of […]

  • News

    Troopers: Remains of passenger in plane crash near Fairbanks recovered

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 09, 22:09

    Alaska State Troopers were able to recover the body of the only passenger on a plane that crashed Wednesday near Fairbanks. The agency is waiting to provide positive identification of the passenger on board until after the autopsy. But Gov. Bill Walker identified the passenger as former Alaska lawmaker Mike Kelly earlier this week. In […]

  • Lifestyle

    Climate change film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ gets a sequel

    by Associated Press on Dec 09, 21:56

    LOS ANGELES (AP) – Al Gore’s climate change documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” is getting a sequel. Paramount Pictures said Friday the follow-up to the Oscar-winning original will premiere at next January’s Sundance Film Festival. In the new documentary, former Vice President Gore examines global warming’s escalation and the solutions at hand, Paramount said. In a […]

  • News

    Father and children headed to Anchorage for volleyball tournament when plane disappeared

    by Lauren Maxwell on Dec 09, 21:20

    A statement released from family members of a father and two children, who likely died in a plane crash near Port Alsworth on Wednesday, said they were traveling to Anchorage to attend the Alaska State Volleyball Championships. The National Park Service has identified the pilot as 25-year-old Kyle Longerbeam. The passengers are identified as 45-year-old […]

  • Surveillance footage captures attempted break-in at Anchorage bike shop

    by Eric Ruble on Dec 09, 21:04

    The general manager of The Bicycle Shop, on Northern Lights Boulevard, said other local businesses should be on the lookout for a man who attempted to break into the shop Tuesday morning. Surveillance footage shows a man using a crowbar to try to pry open the front door of the business. “The doors looks like you […]