Wildlife officials find thousands of dead seabirds in Alaska

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Wildlife Officials Find Thousands Of Dead Seabirds In Alaska

A massive die-off of seabirds in Alaska has scientists scrambling to determine the scope and cause.

Thus far, approximately 8,000 dead members of the common murre species have been recorded in the area known as Whittier, around the Prince William Sound.

And, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the death toll could ultimately reach the low five-figure range.

While mass deaths of the black and white birds have happened before in the wintertime, officials say the scale of this event is unusual.

The cause is thought to be related to starvation, as the murres' bodies appeared thin and emaciated.

The source of the malnutrition could be related to wind gusts which pushed the birds off track or warming waters that forced prey deeper down and out of reach.

Disease has also been mentioned as a possible factor, but a limited examination of carcasses found no such evidence.

Among the next steps is an assessment of less accessible beaches.

More from the scene:

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Wildlife officials find thousands of dead seabirds in Alaska
This photo taken Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, shows dead common murres on a rocky beach in Whittier, Alaska. Federal scientists in Alaska are looking for the cause of a massive die-off of one of the Arcticâs most abundant seabirds, the common murre. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
In this Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 photo, dead common murres lie washed up on a rocky beach in Whittier, Alaska. Federal scientists in Alaska are looking for the cause of a massive die-off of one of the Arcticâs most abundant seabirds, the common murre. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
In this Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, photo, dead common murres lie on a rocky beach in Whittier, Alaska. Federal scientists in Alaska are looking for the cause of a massive die-off of one of the Arcticâs most abundant seabirds, the common murre. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
In this Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 photo, Hai Han feeds a common murre in the bathtub of his vacant apartment in Whittier, Alaska. He hand feeds salmon chunks to the bird two to three times after he found it starving to death on a beach in Whitter. Federal scientists in Alaska are looking for the cause of a massive die-off of one of the Arcticâs most abundant seabirds, the common murre. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
In this Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 photo, Hai Han feeds a common murre in the bathtub of his vacant apartment in Whittier, Alaska. He hand feeds salmon chunks to the bird two to three times after he founds it starving to death on a beach in Whitter. Federal scientists in Alaska are looking for the cause of a massive die-off of one of the Arcticâs most abundant seabirds, the common murre. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
In this Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 photo, dead common murres lie on a rocky beach in Whittier, Alaska. Federal scientists in Alaska are looking for the cause of a massive die-off of one of the Arcticâs most abundant seabirds, the common murre. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
In this Jan. 5, 2016 photo, Katie Middlebrook and Guy Runco of Anchorage's Bird Treatment and Learning Center prepare to release a common murre near the Anchorage small boat harbor in Anchorage, Alaska. The center has treated hundreds of common murres found emaciated along beaches or in inland communities far from the ocean. Thousands of other murres have died of starvation and federal scientists are trying to determine why. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)
In this Jan. 5, 2016 photo, Guy Runco, director of the Bird Treatment and Learning Center, releases a common murre near the Anchorage small boat harbor in Anchorage, Alaska. The center has treated hundreds of common murres found emaciated along beaches or in inland communities far from the ocean. Thousands of other murres have died of starvation and federal scientists are trying to determine why. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)
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