About 400 starlings have been found dead in Kiwanis Park in Clearfield.
Clearfield officials said they don’t know what led to the deaths or why the birds gathered at the 300 N. Vine St. location. J.J. Allen, assistant city manger, said municipal workers have picked up the dead birds and will keep the park up to city standards.
Dead birds were first noticed at the park Sunday, Allen said. More dead birds have turned up through the week.
Officials from the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources collected four of the dead birds to determine whether they were poisoned, Allen said.
An unnamed government official told an AP reporter to “expect dead starlings to fall to the ground for a few more days.”
On Saturday, December 17, hundreds of starlings fell from the sky. It was believed the birds were dead before they even hit the ground.
The Standard Examiner reported that a variety of explanations were being given by various officials. “As to why they died, the answer depends on who you ask,” reported The Standard’s Jasen Asay.
JJ Allen, Clearfield’s assistant city manager, said parks department employees have been gathering dead European starlings since Sunday. Birds were first noticed Sunday, but more had been turning up dead since then.
“Our parks department has cleaned up a total of 380 birds,” Allen said late Monday afternoon, “mostly on the north end of the city by Kiwanis Park.” By Tuesday, December 20, Phil Douglass of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said the information he received was that the dead birds were part of a population control effort by the Department of Agriculture.
Douglass said the treatment took place in western Weber County and involved 15,000 European starlings. In other words, he’s saying that he was told that another government agency had killed off the starlings as part of a poisoning campaign.
However, Mike Linnell, federal program director at Animal and Wildlife Damage Prevention Services, said they had nothing to do with the dead birds.
“We have not treated any birds in Clearfield,” Linnell said. Animal and Wildlife Damage Prevention Services falls under the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. So Linnell would be the one to know.
A post at The Republic is suggesting that it could be that the birds were indeed poisoned as part of a kill-off campaign, but no government agency wants to take responsibility for it. After all, as soon as a government agency takes the blame, an individual at the agency would be asked to step up to allow environmentalists point a shaming finger at him or her.
It could be, too, that a landowner set out poisoned bait in an effort to keep hungry starlings away from food stores. (Starlings are an unprotected species.) However, environmental officials have commented that they did not think local farmers would have poisoned the birds, because there are several other bird species in the area that look like European starlings that are protected by wildlife laws.
The very strange thing is this: Why would so many starlings be dropping from the sky only over the city’s park, dead before they hit the ground, for a few days or more? Seems pretty odd.
What’s even weirder is a comment made by an unspecified official. Utah’s Local News 8 posted an AP story that included this: “Officials say they expect dead starlings to fall to the ground for a few more days.”
True, the unnamed official might have been trying to support the “poisoned birds” story, and that statement was merely one more nugget of b.s.
“We are not sure if that [the previous report of baited birds] was the case or not,” said Assistant City Manager JJ Allen. “Clearfield city is not aware of how or why so many birds died or were found dead at one of our city’s many parks.”
By Thursday, December 22, The Standard went back to representatives from Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources.
DWR officials retracted their story.
“It is definitely still a mystery,” Justin Dolling, DWR regional supervisor, told The Standard. “We don’t know what happened. Unfortunately, there was some speculation, and we can’t say that was indeed the case.”
Dolling said DWR officials have collected four of the birds and sent them to a lab in Logan. He said he hopes to have an answer as to why they died in the next few weeks.
“Sometimes it comes back that there’s enough uncertainty that we don’t know what caused death,” Dolling said.
This morning while driving to work, I witnessed a few dozen birds fall from the sky. Most crashed into the road barely missing my car. Others, the less fortunate ones flapped around on the street until they stopped moving. It was so upsetting. I am angry, hurt, sad and scared! I never get angry but this has to stop! Who and why have they been poisoning our birds?
As of today there has been NO follow up. I wonder if there ever will be?