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HURRICANE — As an almost daily visitor to Quail Creek State Park, Kathy Smith has traversed the length and breadth of the entire lake many times over. She's cleaned up trash on the shoreline, and even helped remove the occasional animal carcass that washed ashore.
But despite her experience, she was disturbed by the sight that greeted her during a Wednesday morning kayak trip around the lake.
"I paddled all the way from the north end of the lake to the south end, and when I stopped to turn around and come back they started showing up," Smith said. "I started running into these grebes with black and white chests. One after another — more than 50 of them, and they were all floating in the water dead."
Bewildered, Smith decided to notify the authorities and tried to reason out what happened to these birds that are well adapted to life on the water.
"I pulled one out, and it had a hole through its chest almost like it was shot," she said.
Grebes are a family of water birds similar to ducks, and it is illegal to hunt them in the state of Utah. After sending a biologist to assist state park rangers in investigating the grisly event, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources dispatched a conservation officer to determine whether the deaths were the result of poaching.