The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

September 30, 2008

Hundreds of dead birds found outside high school

CLARKSBURG — Teachers and students at Tucker County High School got an unusual surprise when they showed up to class to find hundreds of dead birds scattered along the parking lot and school property.

Assistant Principal Mickel Bonnett encountered birds swarming around the school and flying into the windows when he came to work around 6:30 a.m. Monday.

"They were swarming around the lighted entry trying to get into the school," Bonnett recalled. "I thought that was unusual, and then I saw dead birds. I saw more birds flying around and banging into the glass and decided to call the superintendent."

Bonnett said he thought the birds were attracted to the lights inside the school as it was dark outside.

One after one, they continued smacking into the side of the school, plummeting to their death.

"Anywhere that had light shining out, they were flying their bodies into the glass," Bonnett said. "It was instant death. They broke their necks and were lying in piles by the door. Some were out by the track, the driveway, spread all over the place. I figure some of them didn't hit so hard, fractured their skulls and died elsewhere."

Officials closed the school Monday morning after fears that toxins might have killed the birds. Several of the creatures were left stunned and recovered.

"At that point, it was not known what was causing the death of the birds," said Tucker County Sheriff Tom Felton, who arrived at the school around 7:45 a.m. "There were hundreds outside and scattered along the parking lot and roads, in close proximity to the school."

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources spokesman Hoy Murphy said wildlife officials at the scene found the birds piled up against one wall under a window, on the roof and scattered throughout the school grounds.

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