Die-offs of common murres have been taking place across Alaska since summer and the latest report is from Kachemak Bay, according to biologists with the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge in Homer.Download AudioCommon Murres, like the one held by Wildlife Biologist Leslie Slater on the beach along the Spit in Homer, are turning up along beaches all around the Kachemak Bay area.Wildlife biologist Leslie Slater says there have been two waves of mortality.“This die-off started to be noticed around mid-July in certain parts of the state. And so it continued at some level — a fairly high, noticeable level — for a couple weeks and then it seemed to diminish and then there seemed to be resurgence again of the number of carcasses that we were seeing on beaches, and that happened in mid-November or so,” Slater said.There have been die-offs reported of the penguin-like sea birds in Cold Bay in July and in Kodiak in November. Slater says they’ve also had reports from Seward, Sitka and Prince William Sound. In November starving and dead murres turned up around the Mat-Su and Anchorage areas, farther inland than usual.“It seems that then they would either be disoriented, which could be the result of ingesting a toxin or they could be very desperate in searching for food and just kept traveling up the inlet,” Slater said.Seabird die-offs have been recorded all along the west coast of the U.S. in Washington, Oregon and California this year. Slater estimates that a large number of murres have died around Kachemak bay.“Based on the duration of the time that we’ve had carcasses being reported to us, I would say, it’s into the thousands, certainly, throughout Kachemak Bay,” Slater said.The dead murres are being counted by citizen scientists all along the Spit and along the beach up to Anchor Point.“They’ve been doing this for several years and so there’s been a baseline established of what we would consider being a normal winter… and so far, it’s been at least six times the normal background amount that’s been observed,” Slater said.Slater says citizen scientists mark the murres with color-coded zip ties around a wing or foot and if you see a bird with a zip tie she says you should not disturb it because it’s part of a study.And anecdotal reports of dead murres and other birds are coming in from across the Bay. They’ve also had reports of dead tufted puffins, horned puffins and an ancient murrelet. She says the birds, along with murres, feed on small fish or dive to get invertebrates during summer. They dive for squid, crustaceans and krill during winter.Slater says murre carcasses were sent to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin where bird flu was ruled out. The dead birds seem to have starved, but Slater says there could be other factors.“There are analysis that are pending. So it could be something that had to do with PSP, like paralytic shelfish poisoning, that was ingested at some point, but that is still unknown,” Slater said.Results from those tests should be back in January. That’s also when Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge biologist Heather Renner will be presenting a paper on the murre die-off at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage.
Comments Share “You know, I really didn’t pay too much attention to it,” he said. “My agent did a lot of the book work and for me; I’m just looking for the opportunity to come in and play and just get back to having fun.” Thomas, 26, is entering his fifth NFL season. He spent three-plus seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars after they chose him in the fourth round out of the University of Arizona in the 2009 NFL Draft. Midway through last season, the Lions gave up a fifth-round pick in 2014 to secure the services of Thomas, but he only caught five passes for 28 yards in nine games with Detroit.Following his release, Thomas said there were several teams interested, but Arizona, ultimately, was the place for him. “I just felt like it would be the best fit for me and my skill set,” he said. “Obviously, I was wanted a little bit as well, so it just worked out that I could be here and I’m thankful and grateful to be here.”Thomas is no stranger to the Grand Canyon State. He left UA as the Pac-10’s all-time leading receiver with 259 catches.“The irony of it is pretty amazing,” Thomas said about his return to Arizona. “It’s awesome, to be back. When I got here, I felt so much better with the sunny skies and just clear vision again just to come out here and be here, so it’s a good feeling.”Thomas’ presence makes the battle for the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots that much more interesting. Undrafted rookies Jaron Brown and Charles Hawkins, along with former ASU Sun Devil Kerry Taylor, have all been impressive at different times in camp. Thomas says the uncertainty at the position didn’t have much to do with his choice to sign with Arizona. Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact Top Stories Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling GLENDALE, Ariz. — Well, that was quick.After being released by the Detroit Lions Monday, wide receiver Mike Thomas not only signed with the Arizona Cardinals, but was a participant in Tuesday’s practice at University of Phoenix Stadium.“You know, they gassed up the jet for me — no, I’m just kidding,” Thomas said when asked how he got to Arizona so fast from the Lions’ training camp in Allen Park, Michigan. “(The Cardinals) called first thing, we spoke this morning, I arrived and have been taking care of business since then.” The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo