This Montana man spends his days shooting at birds that land on a toxic lake to save them from burning inside out
The Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana is so acidic it has the potential to fry birds inside out in a matter of hours.
Locals, such as Mark Mariano, use a variety of methods to scare them away.
The lake became toxic after groundwater began to seep in and created sulfuric acid.
The Berkeley pit started off as an open pit mine about 65 years ago before the water pumps were shut off in 1982.
Shutting off the pumps meant that groundwater began to seep in and created sulfuric acid that leached metals out of the rock.
The lake has become so acidic that if a bird lands there for more than a few hours it could be cooked from the inside out, Insider reported. So, some locals have gotten creative in helping protect the migrant birds that fly through there.
The lake — located in Butte, Montana— is 7,000 feet long, 5,600 feet wide, and 1,780 feet deep.
The Berkeley Pit is considered one of the largest superfund sites in the US.
It is a toxic lake a little over a mile long, and 1,780 feet deep, according to the EPA, and filled with heavy metals and toxic water from old underground copper mine shafts in Butte, Montana.
To protect the birds, Mark Mariano uses an expensive arsenal of high-tech tools to keep the birds off the toxic lake.
Mariano told Insider that he gave himself the title of "Waterfowl Protection Specialist."
"We invented that title, but it fits," he told Insider.
He uses aerial drones, a drone boar, and a handheld laser to help keep the birds off the water. Each tool works best for a different species of bird.
One of his favorite tools is a $5,000 Swarovski scope, which can spot the birds before they even get wet.
"If we can get, keep 'em from landing. That's always the best," Mariano explained.
During the peak season, someone like Mariano will go up to the area at least once an hour to ensure birds are safe.
Several species of birds including Snow geese, Avocets, and Grebes, migrate through Butte during the spring and fall.
"I mean, I dream, sleep, eat and poop, ducks" Mariano told Insider.
In 2016, an estimated 60,000 Snow Geese landed on the pit with about 3,000 of them dying, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Insider reported that scientists discovered that around 50 species of birds make their way through Butte every year.
Before resorting to shooting, people will use unnatural sounds to repel the birds from the area.
Mariano uses four wailers, which play a random series of alarms that can annoy the birds.
"You can hear these things on a, you know, nice warm summer night all across Butte," Mariano said.
Another method to save the birds is propane cannons.
The cannons are set up on a timer and go off all day.
"They mimic gunfire, which a lot of the birds are scared of for obvious reasons," Mariano said.
The last resort is fireworks.
Mariano said they've only had to resort to the fireworks twice, but overall he's proud of the work he does to keep these birds safe.
"I wake up without an alarm every morning and I'm happy to go literally rescue birds. And most days you walk home with your head held high, that you saw those birds get up and take off towards Helena to the North or to the South in the fall," Mariano told Insider.
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