Seabird die-off takes twist with carcasses in Alaska lake

Dead murres on the beach in Haines on Jan. 12, 2016. (Tim Ackerman)
Dead murres on the beach in Haines on Jan. 12, 2016. (Tim Ackerman)

The massive die-off of a widely distributed North Pacific seabird continues to surprise federal scientists.

Download Audio

The latest twist was the discovery of thousands of carcasses of common murres along a freshwater Alaska lake.

U.S. Geological Survey research wildlife biologist John Piatt says an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 carcasses were counted last month on the shore of Lake Iliamna in southwest Alaska.

Common murres spend winters at sea. Piatt says if he saw a murre in a lake he would conclude it was a misguided individual, but to have more than 6,000 in a lake mind-blowing.

Federal agencies are trying to determine why common murres are apparently starving.

The confirmed carcass count is up to 36,000 and researchers say that’s probably a fraction of the deaths.