Thousands of birds killed at waterfowl area
BILLINGS – A hailstorm in southeast Montana Aug. 11 killed and injured thousands of birds at the Big Lake Wildlife Management Area west of Molt, Montana.
According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, about 11,000 birds were killed or injured. The storm flattened crops, broke windows and wrecked roofs and vehicles throughout the region, FWP said.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists found dead ducks and shorebirds with broken wings, smashed skulls, internal damage and other injuries from the hail.
A nearby landowner said the hail was baseball-sized that was driven by a 70-mile-per-hour wind, and FWP spokesperson said.
FWP wildlife biologist Justin Paugh estimated that five percent of ducks on the lake and 30 percent to 40 percent of living pelicans and cormorants show some sign of injury or impaired movement – mostly broken wings and broken wing feathers.
FWP’s Big Lake Wildlife Management Area is a shallow, seasonal lake and wetland that are nesting areas for dozens of species of ducks, Canada geese, double-crested cormorants, shorebirds, gulls, pelicans and other waterfowl. Because of wet weather this past spring, the lake filled and currently covers around 4,000 acres.
“On a positive note,” Paugh said, “the lake is still covered with waterfowl that are alive and healthy. Life will go on.”