Hundreds of seabirds washing up dead off Olympic Peninsula
PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. (AP) - Scientists are looking into the deaths of hundreds of seabirds in the eastern part of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington state.
About 300 rhinoceros auklets, which are closely related to puffins, have washed ashore since May, the Peninsula Daily News reported. Julia Parrish, executive director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, says there's no clear explanation.
"We've never seen anything like 300 rhinoceros auklets wash ashore in the eastern Strait," she said. "There's definitely something going on."
Dead birds have been found at Discovery Bay, Dungeness Spit near Sequim and across the strait near Victoria, British Columbia. Some have been sent to the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center for testing.
About 72,000 of the birds are successfully breeding on Protection Island, a wildlife refuge near the mouth of Discovery Bay, Parrish said, so a lack of food doesn't seem to be the issue.
Scientists also are looking into possible contagions or poisons, but if that were the case, Parrish said she would expect more to have washed up. She also said there could be a small algae bloom adding toxins to the food supply.
The organization has hundreds of trained volunteers monitoring the beaches in the Strait and recording what they find, she said.
The British Columbia Beach Bird Survey is recording the dead birds found on the Canadian shore.