Wildlife CSI: The Feds Investigating the “Aflockalypse” Blackbird Deaths.

In the face of all the recent bird and fish kills in the U.S. and abroad, we thought it might be interesting to learn more about the federal office that investigates bird, fish and other wildlife kills in the United States.

It is called the National Wildlife Health Center and is located in Madison, Wisconsin.  It is part of the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey.

We like to think of it as “Wildlife CSI.”

Each year, wildlife managers across the nation see or are notified of sick and dead animals, frequently on a large scale.  Sometimes these are the result of disease, such as the recent massive fish kill on the Arkansas River and sometimes the cause is harder to explain such as the blackbird deaths we saw recently in Beebe Arkansas.

Minimizing the spread of wildlife losses depends on effective technical and scientific support, knowledgeable guidance, and fast action.  The National Wildlife Health Center was established is to help with national and international wildlife health concerns. It acts somewhat like a Centers for Disease Control for wildlife.  It monitors disease and assesses the impact of disease on wildlife, examines ecological relationships leading to the occurrence of disease and offers on-site help to reduce wildlife losses when outbreaks occur.

In addition to the recent blackbird mystery, which the media has labeled “aflockalpyse,” the Center looks at other mysteries such as a recent set of songbird beak deformities in Alaska, avian influenza, and the scary white-nosed fungus syndrome that is killing off millions of bats in the East.   The Center maintains an online Mortality Event Map.

The Center staff teams also provide counsel to local people on animal welfare regulations and how they apply to wildlife.