Mass Deaths of Birds and Fish in Arkansas Stymie Officials

Arkansas wildlife officials are at a loss to explain the deaths of 100,000 fish and, a day later, 5,000 birds.

The fish began washing up on the banks of the Arkansas River last week, and officials revised their estimate upward to six figures. A day after a tugboat operator first reported the fish kill, along a 20-mile stretch near Ozark, thousands of blackbirds dropped dead from the sky in Beebe, Ark., which is 125 miles away.

The dead fish appeared to only include drum fish, which officials said pointed toward disease as the likely cause.

"If it was from a pollutant, it would have affected all of the fish, not just drum fish," Keith Stephens of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said.

As for the birds, all appeared to be red-winged blackbirds. Speculation on what caused their carcasses to rain down on the town of Beebe included hail and lightning.

"We may have something today" on the cause of the bird deaths, said Keith Stephens, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Selected Reading: MSNBC, The Atlantic, CNN.

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