During a recent snowstorm, several thousand or more snow geese died together after they were forced to take refuge on an acidic, metal-laden body of water of an old, open pit mine in Montana. The 700-acre Berkeley Pit – a former mine – is now submerged in water as acidic as distilled vinegar.
The factor that makes this story so bizarre is that Butte usually only sees a few thousand birds per year – this time, there were untold tens of thousands flying through.
The pit belongs to Montana Resources and Atlantic Richfield is also responsible for it. Starting November 28, Montana Resources caught news of the incredibly large flock and used spotlights, noise makers and other efforts to scare or “haze” the birds off the water. By the 29th, an alleged 90% of them were chased off. Still, witnesses described the pit as like “700 acres of white birds.”
Workers received some advance notice about the incoming flock from an off-duty Montana Resources employee about 25 miles away, who called to report there were about 25,000 geese in the air in Anaconda, Thompson said.
“I can’t underscore enough how many birds were in the Butte area that night,” Thompson said. “Numbers beyond anything we’ve ever experienced in our 21 years of monitoring by several orders of magnitude.”
The employees worked hard to save the birds, he said.
People are calling the incident a “perfect storm,” where an usually large flock on an unusually late migration just happened to be in the area of a snowstorm with the toxic pit being the only source of water.
Washington Post divulges the contents of the pit:
From 1955 until operations ceased in 1982, miners extracted nearly 300 million tons of copper ore from the pit. They left behind an immense crevasse, which filled with water 900 feet deep. Concentrated within the floodwater are arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, copper, iron, zinc and other inorganic compounds.
Although this event was more or less an incident involving environmental toxicants – mass animal deaths have become eerily more common in the last decade. Many of the mass animal deaths include dolphins, birds, antelope, and fish – but rarely are the mysteries ever solved.
What made so many birds migrate in this particular area when this is normally not the case?
This article (Mass Die Off of Snow Geese When They Landed On Toxic Pit of Water) can be republished with attribution to Heather Callaghan, source article and Natural Blaze.com, keeping all links and bio intact.