Overview: Seabird Mortality in Alaska

flock of birds flying Northern fulmars near Unalaska. Reid Brewer/Alaska Sea Grant

Seabirds in Alaska die for many reasons, including old age, starvation, competition with other animals, predation, weather events, marine toxins, disease, pollution, interaction with humans and man-made structures, entanglement in fishing gear, and hunting.

If you find more than one sick or dead bird in a small area and the cause is unknown, it may indicate a situation that should be investigated by wildlife health professionals to determine the cause and risk to humans or domestic animals, and any environmental concerns. It is therefore important to report observations of sick and dead birds promptly to wildlife officials who manage these species. Below are instructions on reporting sick or dead birds, how to dispose of dead birds if necessary, safety guidelines for subsistence hunters, and instructions on how to get involved with coastal seabird monitoring efforts.

How to Report Sick or Dead Birds

If you find more than a few sick and/or dead birds, take photos of the animals if possible and immediately report as much information as you can on date, location (GPS coordinates if possible), bird species, and number of affected birds to:

Statewide

Locally (Rural Alaska)

The statewide toll free number above covers all of Alaska. However, also reporting seabird deaths to local responders who will work closely with wildlife agencies, especially in more remote Alaska locations, can be helpful. Reporting locally can aid in collecting samples from the animals and determining and monitoring subsistence animal food safety. Local responders can also help with reporting a die-off to the proper authorities. Below are phone numbers for local responders in some of the more remote regions in Alaska.

Bering Strait Region

North Slope

Bristol Bay

Unalaska/Aleutian Islands

Guidance on Handling Dead Birds

Safety Guidelines for Subsistence Hunters

Get Involved with Seabird Monitoring:

The Coastal Observation And Seabird Survey Team (COASST) is a project started by the University of Washington in partnership with state, tribal, and federal agencies, environmental organizations, and community groups. COASST trains coastal citizens in Washington, Oregon, northern California, and Alaska to identify beached bird carcasses. The trained citizens regularly monitor beaches in their local area and provide data to COASST to be analyzed and reported back to the public.

Monitoring seabirds can be time-consuming and expensive, which severely limits the number and extent of scientific studies. The COASST program allows citizens to be part of the marine conservation process, while providing valuable scientific data that allows scientists to monitor seabird and coastal environmental health in many regions. COASST provides baseline data on seabird mortality due to both natural and human causes, which can be used to determine sources of population change currently and in the future. Learn more about COASST and how to get involved.

For More Information

Avian Cholera

Bird Flu