It was an inauspicious start to the year with news of mass animal deaths spreading like wildfire. Birds were at the forefront of this unfortunate phenomenon as thousands of red-winged blackbirds fell dead from the sky in Arkansas during the first weekend of 2011; officials blamed the deaths on "blunt force trauma," probably caused by either unusually loud noises or the birds flying into buildings. Just two days later, the same event took place, this time in Louisiana. It then occurred overseas, with residents in the Swedish town of Falkoping finding between 50 and 100 jackdaw carcasses strewn across their lawns and roads. But these startling scenes weren't just restricted to birds. Back in Arkansas (in fact, a day before the birds started to drop), roughly 100,000 drum fish were found dead, most likely because of disease. Then in Wisconsin, 200 dead cows were discovered in a field, the victims, it turned out, of spoiled sweet potatoes.