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Are fish falling from the sky in Fairbanks?

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Posted at 3:47 PM, Jun 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-05 15:47:29-04
(CNN) — There are flying fish, and then there are the variety witnessed by residents of Fairbanks, Alaska. These have literally been dropping from the sky, it seems.

Four eel-like fish called lampreys have been found in odd locations around Fairbanks, far from the water, according to Mike Taras of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Most were dead, but one was found alive outside a Fairbanks thrift store.

“Two gentleman came in and asked if we have a bucket with water because there’s an eel in your parking lot,” said the store’s owner, Sue Valdrow. She put the fish, which was about a foot long, into a container of water and called officials.

The stock of metaphors such episodes invite seems without limit — it’s “raining fish;” it’s a “sharknado;” it’s all very “fishy.” But what’s going on here, really?

At this point, nobody knows for sure, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game believes the answer is gulls. The birds are likely catching the fish from the Chena River and then dropping them during their flight.

“If you look closely at them they have holes on both sides that may have been made by a gull or some other kind of bird,” notes Taras.

Even in their natural habitat, lampreys are strange fish, with disconcerting feeding habits. The young are blind and live in the mud for years, feeding on algae and microorganisms. As adults, they are parasites, attaching to other fish and relying on them for subsistence. They die soon after spawning.

“I wasn’t sure what to do when lampreys fall from the sky,” Sue Valdrow told CNN, “I’ve lived in Alaska for 12 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”