Remember the potential public health threat back in 2005 regarding Avian Flu. Supposedly chickens in China had contracted a flu which was found to be contagious to humans? Worst yet the desease chickens were then infecting other birds – especially migratory birds. Scientists confirmed that birds from China do in fact migrate to the US via Russia and Canada as well as to the middle east and western Europe. Well this story might be of interest to all you who were involved in the planning and prevention of Avian Flue and all of you who work in government today.
The Public Health Department of a rural southern county began receiving reports of an abnormally high number of dead crows found on a newly repaved section of a major county highway. Alarmed by the large number of dead crows being reported, the Public Health Officer issued a statement asking all county residents to report any dead crows they saw to either the Public Health Office or the Sheriff’s Department.
After two weeks, over 200 dead crows were reported and now the Health Department had concerns that the crows may have died from the avian flu. Not wanting to take any chances, the Public Health Officer contacted the University Extension’s Outreach Officer who in turn contacted the University’s Staff in the state capital.
The University instructed the County Health Department to send every dead crow found to the University’s Pathology Department so their staff could examine them. Additionally, the University, along with the State’s Emergency Management Office, dispatched a team of trained specialists to conduct an onsite analyst. To everyone’s relief, the University’s Pathologist Department confirmed the death of all crows was not related to avian flu. However, when the joint University/Emergency Management team published its report it concluded that 98% of the crows killed in the county were killed by impact with trucks and 2% were killed by impact with cars.
Puzzled by this disproportionate percentage of truck kills versus car kills in the crow deaths in this rural southern county, The University recommended the county contact the Department of Transportation to hire an ornithological behaviorist to determine the cause for this uneven distribution of incidents. The ornithological behaviorist that was hired spent over a month in the county speaking with various county residents, evaluating crow the sites where dead crows were found and reviewing the types of probable road kill that was available for crows to eat on the county highway system.
When finished with his research, the ornithological behaviorist provided the county with the following report. All the crows that migrate through the county are known to eat a wide variety of road kill. Whenever the crows converge on a roadway kill site, they flock always assigns a ‘lookout’ in a nearby tree. This lookout crow has the responsibility to warn the other members of the flock of any impending danger. The ornithological behaviorist concluded that while the ‘lookout crows” in this particular southern rural county can easily voice ‘cah, cah’ none of had the ability to clearly say ‘truck, truck’.