As we are scrambling to keep tabs on mortality events involving puffins, razorbills and common loons from Florida to Maine, some of our colleagues have an eye toward writing up these strange occurrences both for immediate release to the public, as well as for future, more measured (and peer-reviewed) scientific articles. While we are actively performing necropsies to try to determine cause of death in any fresh specimens found, a major focus of the work right now is simply getting a handle on how many birds are dying or have died, what species, where and when. I have email chains and voicemail messages, and facebook posts and blog comments from all over the east detailing dead birds discovered on beaches, and I am determined to get these reports all funneled into a single database that is publicly available for all to see.
That single resource is the Wildlife Health Event Reporter. It takes only a moment to set up a (free) username and password, and it is simple to use. You can even upload photos (assuming they aren’t too big). If we can get everyone to report to this one place, we can start to map what’s really happening out there.
If you have been in contact with me directly the past few weeks, I have probably personally pestered you to use WHER. But we need this message to be spread far and wide, to anyone who might receive either birds (wildlife rehabbers, museums…) or reports thereof (biologists, federal and state agency folks…) so please, share this post with your friends (facebook and otherwise) with rehab facilities, with anyone and everyone associated even loosely with the coast. The more of these reports we get into this database, the more powerful the data become. I am fairly well connected in the seabird world, but my list of contacts is woefully insufficient to accurately capture mortalities over this kind of geographic and temporal scale. So let’s harness the power of this new-fangled internet to do some old-fashioned counting, shall we?