Dead Pigeons
© Daniel Mallard/QMI Agency
Sylvain Turmel is wondering why he’s been picking up dead pigeons for more than two weeks on his farm in Saint-Augustine-de-Desmaures.

Montreal - More than 80 pigeons have keeled over and died at a farm near Quebec City for unknown reasons, the latest in a string of mysterious animal deaths around the world.

Environmental officials in the province say there's no connection to a similar case in Arkansas, but Sylvain Turmel is wondering why he's been picking up dead pigeons for more than two weeks on his farm in Saint-Augustine-de-Desmaures.

The first dead bird was found on Dec.18. He's since found more bodies on his roof and inside the barn.

"I was stunned," he said.

"I went to see my tenant to ask whether he'd been feeding them poison. He ended helping me pick up 25 corpses. In the time it took us to collect them, five more had fallen. Authorities thought it might be gas. But that's not possible."

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries said tests are currently being performed at the animal pathology lab in the provincial capital.

"The cause right now isn't known," said Nicolas Begin. "It's not related to what happened in the U.S. (But) we don't see this sort of thing every day and we're treating this as a serious matter."

About 5,000 birds fell from the sky in Arkansas over the New Year's weekend. That incident is part of a string of fish and animal deaths seen in the U.S. and Europe, including a case in Maryland where two million fish washed up on the shores of Chesapeake Bay earlier this month, blamed on a rapid drop in temperature.

In Quebec, firefighters and police visited Turmel's property to check for fumes or criminal activity. Wildlife officials assured him the birds weren't killed by the avian flu or the West Nile virus, but he's been wary about touching them without gloves.

He said wildlife officials took seven of the dead birds for analysis and told him not to speak with the media. Still, the feisty landowner called a local radio station to recount the incident.

"There's something going on," he said. "This is not normal."