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Thousands of birds killed in a Montana hailstorm


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Hail and 70 mph winds killed or injured more than 11,000 birds, Montana wildlife officials say. | Courtesy of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks/AP

(CNN) — A powerful hailstorm killed or maimed more than 11,000 birds this month at the Big Lake Wildlife Management Area in Montana, officials said.

The storm pounded the area about 35 miles west of Billings on August 11 with 70 mph winds and hail up to 2 inches in diameter. There were reports of smashed windows, vehicle damage and shredded trees.

Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks found dead ducks and shorebirds with broken wings, smashed skulls, internal damage and other injuries, the agency said in a statement.

Between 20 and 30 percent of the birds at the lake were killed or injured, and some of the injured birds were not expected to survive, biologist Justin Paugh said in the statement. About 5 percent of ducks and 30 to 40 percent of pelicans and cormorants “show some sign of injury or impaired movement.”

The agency said it was monitoring the lake because of concern the rotting bird carcasses could cause botulism or other diseases that could harm the surviving birds.

Most of the dead birds have blown on shore, according to the statement.

The Big Lake Wildlife Management Area is a nesting area for dozens of species of ducks, Canada geese, double-crested cormorants, shorebirds, gulls, pelicans and other waterfowl, according to the state’s FWP.

The shallow lake currently covers about 4,000 acres because of the wet spring weather, it said.

“On a positive note,” Paugh said in the statement, “the lake is still covered with waterfowl that are alive and healthy. Life will go on.”

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