102213 UPDATE - Mystery of Big New Mexico Elk Die-off -
Toxic Green Algae?
© 2013 by Linda Moulton Howe
– “I've never seen anything like this. And I've talked with other
wildlife biologists who've seen large die-offs, and I've not run across
anyone who has seen anything of this magnitude.”
– “It is probably really doubtful that hemorrhagic disease would
be the cause because hemorrhagic disease is an infectious disease
and would run a course through time before that many animals died
and they wouldn’t die in such close proximity to each other”
- Kerry Mower, Wildlife Health Specialist, NM Dept. of Game and Fish
Twenty miles north of Las Vegas, New Mexico (Google pointer),
113 to 120 elk were all found dead in less than one square mile on a
private ranch, August 27, 2013. NM Dept. of Game and Fish investigated.
Above and below: These aerial images were taken on August 27, 2013, where 113 to 120 elk
were all found dead in less than 1 square mile. Anthrax was quickly ruled out
and hemorrhagic disease seemed unlikely in such a large die-off in 24 hours or less,
but test results are pending leaving the puzzle: what killed so many animals
so quickly in such a short period of time? Tests are being run now on
everything from gnats to
stomach contents of the dead elk.
Aerial image © 2013 by KRQE.com with video.
October 22, 2013 UPDATE of original Earthfiles report posted September 14, 2013 Santa Fe, New Mexico below the following New Mexico Wildlife News Release -
Kerry Mower, 56, has worked for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in Santa Fe since 1990, first on contract and then in 1994 became a full-time wildlife health specialist focused on large animals. In the nearly quarter century of his field work, Kerry has never seen so many dead elk within a square mile and apparently all dying within 24 hours between August 26 and the morning of August 27, 2013, on a private ranch twenty miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Kerry Mower, 56, Wildlife Health Specialist, New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish, Santa Fe, New Mexico: “On August 27th, which was a Tuesday, I received a phone call from the Game and Fish office in Raton, New Mexico. They had a report of more than 30 elk found dead on a ranch in northeastern New Mexico. That was a large enough mortality that I needed to go up and see firsthand what we had.
So when I drove up there, I met some of the personnel from this private ranch, who took me on up to the location of the elk carcasses and while I was there, we were able to find more than 30 in the stand of trees that I first arrived at.
Walking towards the 113 to 120 dead elk on August 27, 2013,
by Kerry Mower, NM Dept. of Game and Fish.
While I worked on those carcasses getting some tissue samples, the two ranch persons went up into the open country, which was on the top and they came back and reported that they could count another 60 carcasses up there.
Image of dead elk on August 27, 2013, by
Kerry Mower, NM Dept. of Game and Fish.
Then the next morning, we sent up our fixed wing airplane to look around and I had given them the coordinates of the animals I worked on from which I had gathered some tissue samples. They were able to count in the open 75 dead elk. I knew that down in the trees I had seen between 30 and 40, so at that point we knew we had a mortality event that numbered over 100. Then after that, those two same ranch persons went out and all they did was try to count as many dead elk as they were able and they were able to report 113 animals they had found dead, which leads me to believe that the mortality event was probably between 113 to 120 dead elk.
HAS THERE EVER BEEN AN EVENT OF 113 TO 120 ALL DIE WITHIN A 24 HOUR PERIOD BEFORE IN NEW MEXICO?
Not within my memory and not within the memory of anyone else I have talked to.
Why Only Elk Die and Not Other Animals?
WHAT COULD KILL 113 TO 120 ELK WITHIN 24 HOURS AND NOT BE KILLING A WHOLE LOT OF OTHER LIFE THAT WOULD BE AROUND THAT AREA?
It always makes a mind go to an environmental factor and substance present that could have been lethal to those animals.
WHERE DID THAT SUBSTANCE GO?
A lot of these substances are found in plants and sometimes in the environment. And sometimes these molecules are unstable. And so they can be uptaken in the plants and then released and be gone. They can be present on the surface of the ground or in the water and wash away. Or they decay with sunlight. Or the wind blows it away. So, when we’re able to release our most likely cause there will e an explanation like one of those reasons I’ve just given to you. That’s how things can last only a short time.
WHEN YOU WERE HANDLING THE ANIMALS TO EXCISE THE TISSUE WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU NOTICED IN THE ELK?
The most striking thing that I noticed right away was that all the carcasses seemed to be dead about the same period of time. So all of the animals seemed to have died with a fairly short period of time and were close together. The other thing that was very interesting was that they had all lain on the ground and struggled as they had fallen on the ground.
Then I noticed some lesions on the animals suggestive of hemorrhagic disease. That’s a disease that often kills ungulates - mostly white-tailed deer in fairly large numbers, but it usually takes a period of time for that to happen. And that’s a fairly common disease in wildlife. So we did see some lesions consistent with hemorrhagic disease.
[ Editor’s Note: Hemorrhagic disease is a general term for epizootic hemorrhagic disease and bluetongue virus. Both diseases are closely related, have similar clinical signs and are spread by a small, biting midge fly. White-tailed, mule, black-tailed deer, elk, and pronghorn antelope are susceptible to hemorrhagic disease. ]
Not Hemorrhagic Disease?
BUT I UNDERSTAND THAT HAS BEEN ELIMINATED.
Well, we’re waiting for the tests to come back and it is probably really doubtful that hemorrhagic disease would be the cause because hemorrhagic disease is an infectious disease and would run a course through time before that many animals died and they wouldn’t die in such close proximity to each other.
So we don’t expect those results to be positive for hemorraghic disease, but we’re waiting for the final test results on that.
WHEN DO YOU THINK THEY WILL BE IN?
It’s a lengthy process for the hemorrhagic disease testing to happen, so I’m still not expecting those to be back for within one week or maybe two weeks from now.
No Anthrax, No Bullets, No Pesticides, No Lightning
I UNDERSTAND THAT SO FAR IN ADDITION TO THE HEMORRHAGIC DISEASE PROBABLY BEING ELIMINATED THAT THERE WERE NO BULLETS, SO THAT MEANS THEY WERE NOT SHOT.
Yes, no shooting. In fact, nothing suggested anything malicious or illegal.
AND THAT TESTS CAME BACK NEGATIVE FOR ANTHRAX.
The first thing with a mortality event of that magnitude, the first big concern was anthrax, so the anthrax test was done as quickly as I brought those tissues into the laboratory. And yes, it was ruled out.
THERE SEEMS TO BE NO EVIDENCE OF HEAVY PESTICIDE USE IN THE AREA.
When the airplane was in the air, we had them fly in concentric circles all around the area to look for other populations of elk that might be stressed, sick or dying. We also had them look for any agriculture that would be of scale large enough to have pesticides or heavy stores of fertilizer. There was nothing of that nature in the area and so I just can’t imagine that a pesticide spill happened anywhere up there.
And the hay fields were the only agricultural activity and the hay fields were all small family land holding. Those kinds of hay fields are not fertilized heavily.
WHAT ABOUT WELLS OR WATER THE ELK WOULD HAVE HAD ACCESS TO?
That was one of our next ideas and so I returned back up to the ranch and I collected water from a number of different water sources. In the area are a number of constructed water catchment systems for road run-off. There’s also a couple of natural water impoundments. Then there were several developed stock tanks in the area. I collected water from all of those and they have gone in for testing.
DID YOU FIND ANY EVIDENCE OF SCORCHING OR BURNING THAT MIGHT BE CONSISTENT WITH LIGHTNING OR SOME OTHER PHENOMENON?
No, we didn’t. We have been able definitively to rule out lightning. The way we did that was with geographic points of the carcasses. Then there is a pattern of lightning strikes in the area that is accessible. So we looked at the history of lightning strikes and compared it to the position of the carcasses and we did get those data back. There were two lightning strikes from the day of death to one week prior and they were 17 miles away.
Toxic Water, Plants or Other?
SO FAR THEN NO TOXINS IN THE WATER ARE OBVIOUS?
I’m going to say correct on that. We’re waiting for all of those tests to come back in and be confirmed. So, I’m not going to release any information from any of the testing beyond the anthrax and poisonous plants until I can get all of these later tests together and look at them all at once.
In fact, most of the people that I visited with have all suggested that I want to look for some sort of point source for something that could have been either toxic or somehow harmful for the animals that they all had access to at once. Most people are willing to speculate that that seems consistent with something the animals might have ingested.
BUT SO FAR, YOU DON’T HAVE ANY LIKELY CANDIDATE?
Not that I’m willing to talk about. (laughs)
SO IT IS FAIR TO REPORT THAT THIS DIE-OFF OF MORE THAN 100 ELK IS TRULY A GENUINE MYSTERY?
At this point - yes.”
For further reports about unusual animal die-offs in prior Earthfiles reports, please see below from Earthfiles Archive.
• 05/24/2012 — More Than 1,000 Dolphins Dead in Northern Peru Since January - Acoustic Trauma? Biotoxins? Natural Causes?
• 05/24/2012 — Trees Are Dying All Over the World - Including 4,000-Year-Old Bristlecones. What Can Revive Them?
• 04/18/2012 — Part 1: Gulf Fishermen Finding Sick Fish, Few Crabs and Shrimp
• 04/18/2012 — Part 2: Gulf Fishermen Finding Sick Fish, Few Crabs and Shrimp
• 03/17/2012 — Airborne Nicotine-Based Insecticide Residues from Pneumatic Drilling/Seeding Machines Kill Honey Bees
• 02/24/2012 — 179 Healthy Common Dolphins Have Stranded in Cape Cod Since January 12, 108 Have Died and Cause Still Unknown
• 01/27/2012 — GMOs Have Created Stronger Weeds - Now “Agent Orange” Toxin Under Consideration As Next Stronger Weed Poison
• 06/09/2011 — Winter 2010 Honey Bee Colony Losses Averaged 30% in U. S. But beekeepers are suffering 50% to 60% losses over a year.
• 06/03/2011 — Part 2: Gulf Fishermen Finding Sick Fish, Few Crabs and Shrimp
• 05/27/2011 — Unprecedented Die-Off of Leopard Sharks in Redwood City, Calif. Bay Area
• 05/26/2011 — Part 1: Gulf Fishermen Finding Sick Fish, Few Crabs and Shrimp
• 05/11/2011 — Updated Reprints: Earthfiles Viewers Reports of Strange, Loud Booms
• 01/31/2011 — 2010 - 2011 Extreme Weather
• 01/29/2011 — Earthfiles Viewers Reports of Strange, Loud Booms
• 01/28/2011 — New Year 2011 - Bird, Fish, Penguin, Crab Deaths and More Corkscrew-Sliced Seals on North Norfolk, England Coast
• 01/27/2011 — Updated: Leaked EPA Document Says Bayer's Clothianidin Kills Honey Bees
• 01/06/2011 — Updated: New Year Deaths of Birds, Fish and Crabs Around the World
• 11/23/2010 — Dead and Dying Coral South of BP's Gulf Oil Disaster Site
• 09/30/2010 — Invasion of “Super Bed Bugs” in America
• 08/26/2010 — Little Brown Bats in U. S. Headed for Extinction If White-Nose Fungus Can't Be Stopped
• 07/28/2010 — Bee Expert Says Cell Phones Are Not Cause of Honey Bee Collapse
• 06/23/2010 — Snakes Are Declining Around the World, But Why?
• 05/27/2010 — New Fungus Strain Killing People and Animals in Northwest
• 05/20/2010 — Fungus in White-Nose Bat Deaths Has Spread Rapidly to Missouri and Oklahoma
• 05/05/2010 — Updated: U. S. Honey Bee Industry Struggles with 34% Colonies Loss
• 03/25/2010 — GMO Seed Prices Skyrocket and Justice Department Investigates Monsanto for Antitrust Violation
• 03/25/2010 — Bat Die-offs Spread to 11 States and Scientists Call It “Crisis”
• 02/25/2010 — Lionfish Invaders Are Eating Up Other Marine Life in Florida Keys, Bahamas and Bermuda
• 12/05/2009 — Last Time Earth Without Ice: 55 Million Years Ago
• 12/02/2009 — Amid Climate Data Email Scandal, U. K. Climate Research Director Resigns Pending University Inquiry
• 11/20/2009 — Red List of Earth Life Facing Extinction Keeps Growing
• 10/30/2009 — Update on 2009 H1N1
• 06/26/2009 — Mysterious Northeast Bat Deaths Now in 9 States and Headed Toward Kentucky
• 03/30/2009 — European Honey Bee Decline Continues While Aggressive Africanized Honey Bees Attack in Southern U. S.
• 03/06/2009 — Unexplained Stranding of 200 Pilot Whales and Dolphins
• 03/06/2009 — Unexplained Stranding of 200 Pilot Whales and Dolphins
• 02/26/2009 — Unprecedented Northeast Bat Die-off Spreading Rapidly
• 01/29/2009 — Part 1: Nanodiamonds Link Outer Space Impactors to Earth Extinctions 12,900 Years Ago
• 01/29/2009 — Part 2: Nanodiamonds Link Outer Space Impactors to Earth Extinctions 12,900 Years Ago
• 12/21/2008 — Mystery of Missing East Coast Acorns
• 09/26/2008 — NRDC Sues EPA for Honey Bee Lab Data and EPA Approves Another Bee-Killing Pesticide
• 08/31/2008 — Honey Bees Not Healthy in U. S. or U. K.
• 08/15/2008 — Amphibian Warning Bell of Mass Extinctions
• 05/06/2008 — Viewer Comments on Decatur, Alabama, White Sphere Incident
• 05/06/2008 — What Are the Strange “Pearls” in Google Map Images?
• 05/02/2008 — 3-Foot-Diameter Sphere Retrieved By Ambulance in Decatur, Alabama
• 02/29/2008 — Mysterious Bat Deaths in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts
• 02/05/2008 — Federal Court Rejects Bush Navy Sonar Exemption
• 01/18/2008 — Amphibians Dying Out At Alarming Rate
• 08/08/2007 — 2007's Warm, Erratic Global Weather
• 07/11/2007 — Mystery of Night Shining Clouds - Another Global Warming Change?
• 06/28/2007 — Hackenberg Apiary, Pennsylvania - 75-80% Honey Bee Loss in 2007. What Happens If Colony Collapse Disorder Returns?
• 06/21/2007 — Large Lake in Southern Chile Has Disappeared
• 06/01/2007 — Is Earth Close to Dangerous Tipping Point in Global Warming?
• 05/29/2007 — Deadly VHS Fish Virus Has Spread to Lake Michigan
• 05/04/2007 — Environmental Emergency Updates: Part 1 - Spreading Honey Bee Disappearances - Nosema ceranae Not the Answer?
• 05/04/2007 — Environmental Emergency Updates: Part 2 - Ebola-like Virus Killing Great Lakes Fish
• 03/17/2007 — Honey Bee Disappearances Continue: Could Pesticides Play A Role?
• 02/23/2007 — Scientists Hope "Amphibian Arks" Can Save Frogs and Toads
• 02/23/2007 — Part 1: Earth Life Threats - Alarming Disappearance of Honey Bees
• 01/26/2007 — Part 1: Tappen, North Dakota: Encounters with Non-Humans
• 01/10/2007 — 2006: USA's Warmest Year On Record
• 12/16/2006 — Updated: Unprecedented Die-Off of 2,500 Mallard Ducks in Idaho
• 12/07/2006 — Earth Headed for Warmest Period in 55 Million Years?
• 09/09/2006 — Methane - Another Threat in Global Warming
• 07/18/2006 — 2006 - Hottest Year So Far in U. S. History
• 04/08/2006 — Recent Caribbean Coral Reef Die-Off Biggest Ever Seen
• 03/21/2006 — One Way H5N1 Bird Flu Could Adapt to Humans
• 02/20/2006 — Mysterious Deaths of Whales in Mexico
• 09/23/2005 — Phenomenon of "Instant" Hurricanes in 2005
• 08/26/2005 — Another Cattle Mutilation in Canada
• 08/26/2005 — What Is Killing Amphibians Around the World?
• 08/05/2005 — Scientists Puzzled by "Bizarre" Pacific Coast Die-offs in 2005
• 07/14/2005 — 8,000 White Pelican Chicks Mysteriously Died At Chase Lake, North Dakota
• 06/21/2005 — Vietnamese Doctor Studying H5N1 Bird Flu Falls Victim to Virus
• 08/01/2004 — Sixth Straight Year Hundreds of Birds Die at Roestler Lake, North Dakota.
• 03/29/2004 — Wyoming Elk Paralysis and Mysterious Lichen Poison
KRQE-TV Helicopter Video of 113-120 Elk, August 27, 2013:
Offgrid Survival: http://offgridsurvival.com/massanimaldieoffs/
Endangered Species: http://worldwildlife.org/species/directory?sort=extinction_status&direction=desc
Red List of Threatened Species: http://www.iucnredlist.org