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Thousands of birds found dead in Stillwater County following hail storm

Carcasses found on the shore of Big Lake
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Posted at 8:14 PM, Aug 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-16 22:14:15-04

About 11,000 birds were found dead or maimed by state biologists at the Big Lake Wildlife Management Area west of Molt as a result of last weekend's hail storm.

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks biologists picked up carcasses this week of ducks and shorebirds with broken wings, smashed skulls, internal damage, and other injuries consistent with massive blunt-force trauma, the agency said Friday in a news release.

Thousands more dead or badly injured waterfowl and wetland birds were also found in and around the lake.

On Sunday, the communities of Molt and Rapelje were hammered by strong winds and two-inch hail that battered crops, homes, and vehicles.

Biologist Justin Paugh estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the birds at the lake were killed or injured. Of the birds still alive, Paugh estimated that five percent of the ducks on the lake and 30 to 40 percent of living pelicans and cormorants show some sign of injury or impaired movement- mostly broken wings and broken wing feathers.

Big Lake has a shallow, often seasonal lake and wetland that operates as nesting areas for dozens of species of duck, Canada geese, double-crested cormorants, shorebirds, gulls, pelicans and other waterfowl. The lake covers about 4,000 acres.

Paugh estimated the kill was between 11,000 and 13,000 waterfowl and shorebirds. Some survived the storm but will likely die of injuries. Most dead birds have blown ashore.

Biologists are also concerned that disease, including botulism, caused by rotting carcasses could further harm the bird population. They will continue to monitor the area.


Here is drone video from FWP of the area taken before the hail storm: