Conservation officer Jacob Berl came across a shocking sight Saturday night – more than 50 dead geese had plunged into a parking lot near his Idaho lab.
The discovery in Idaho Falls followed a storm with lightning and golf ball-size hail, reported the East Idaho News, suggesting the geese were killed by a lightning strike while migrating north to Canada.
“Several of the geese had their stomachs blown open, and all of them were dead. None were injured,” Berl told the publication. “Hail likely would have knocked them out of the sky, but they would have been able to glide down and land at different places.”
Berl collected the bodies of 48 snow geese and three Ross’s geese in a 100- to 200-yard radius of the parking lot. Teresa Keim told KIFI on Tuesday that she found 60 more dead geese on the roof of Yellowstone Warehouse, a self-storage company, bringing the total to at least 112.
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“It’s sad to see any animal die, but fortunately snow geese are pretty abundant and are not a rare or threatened species,” Berl told the East Idaho News. “It was just a freak accident.”
It’s unlikely the geese died from some other cause, Berl told the Idaho State Journal.
“It is common for diseases like influenza or other sorts of bird-borne diseases to cause mass die-offs of birds, but not for them to just fall out of the sky and land within a hundred yards of each other like that,” Berl said.
Chuck Trost, a retired Idaho State University professor who taught ornithology and animal behavior, told the Idaho State Journal that he’d never heard of such a case, calling it “bizarre.”
In June 2016, a Regina, Canada, family reported finding six dead ducks following a lightning storm, reported CBC News. Daniel Gagnon, a University of Regina biology professor, said the ducks could have been killed either by lightning or a sudden downdraft caused by a “microburst.”