As the saying goes: “If you don’t like the weather in Montana, just wait five minutes.” From almost 60 degrees Fahrenheit on one day to -20 degrees the next night with 10 inches of new snow, “the weather in March has been unusually extreme,” said Christian Misha, a meteorologist in the Bozeman area.
Biologists agree the weather may have had more effects on nature than expected as they predict an oncoming storm of viscious magpies. Ben Mele, ornithologist at MSU, said, “The extreme weather may have caused some bird species to react with extreme behavioral and physical adaptations.” Mele and other ornithologists expect the number of magpies to be extremely high this coming season, with flocks as large as 100,000 birds descending on Bozeman. “There are already twice as many magpies than last year, and magpie chicks have not yet hatched,” Mele said.
He and his colleagues discovered recently that these birds developed small but sharp teeth. This phenomenon has not been discovered in any other bird species so far and may be due to the weather conditions in Montana and the problems birds face to survive. “Perhaps the teeth are an adaptation that enables the magpies to kill other animals for their food source,” Mele said.
This adaptation presents a threat to life in the Gallatin Valley. “The large number of magpies with sharp teeth makes them not only to a threat for our pets but also for us humans,” Sina White, animal control specialist, explained. “It’s estimated that a single magpie could rip apart a square foot of flesh in a mere five minutes,” White said.
Biologists at MSU are now looking for other bird species that may have adapted similarly. The number of students being attacked by ducks at the duck pond at MSU has increased since the beginning of the spring semester. Further investigations are necessary to determine more about the extreme changes in birds in the area. Until then, Mele suggests, “Try to stay away from the duck pond; keep your pets in the house and watch out for magpies.”
R.O.T.C. students on campus are currently being trained to meet this impending disaster.