Coolest American Jobs: Man Spends His Days Warding Off Birds From Toxic Lake

by Jon D. B.
(Photo by William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images)

Imagine getting paid to use a multi-million dollar arsenal on the daily, all in the name of saving rare birds from being “cooked from the inside out” on a toxic lake.

That’s exactly the case for Mark Mariano. Mark is the Waterfowl Protection Specialist for Rampart Solutions in Montana. “We invented that title,” he tells Business Insider for the incredible look at his work below. “But it fits!”

Mark is the operator of a multi-million dollar arsenal of tools (including aerial and aquatic drones, lasers, and firearms) to keep birds off of what was once a copper mine in Butte, Montana. Also known as The Berkeley Pit, the origins of this now “toxic bird bath” go back over 60 years. In 1982, however, the company running the mine shut down all water pumps. It’s now a cesspool of groundwater sulfuric acid and toxic metals as a result.

This led to the creation of the position Mariano now holds, which has been in existence since those pumps shut down. Their work has become a beacon for conservationists looking to protect the hundreds of millions of birds killed by industrial mining every single year.

This might not seem the world’s most important work at first. But the alternative is gruesome. Waterfowl that spend more than a few minutes on the surface of the lake are literally “cooked from the inside out.” There’s no overstating this as a horrible way to go.

If migrating species land on the Berkeley Pit for more than a few hours, they get cooked from the inside out. Now, miners use a rifle, drones, and lasers to scare the birds away.

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Where Do We Sign Up to Become a ‘Waterfowl Protection Specialist’ and Save the Birds?

Typically, we Outsiders think of good ol’ ducks when it comes to waterfowl. But the survival of hundreds of species is on the line at this toxic lake. Snow geese, American, avocets, and grebes are among the many birds at risk of “death by acidic cooking” in Montana.

Mark is an avid conservationist on behalf of these migratory species. He “eats, sleeps, and poops” waterfowl. Though not literally, as that might be a bit counterproductive. He’s an expert bird-caller, too. But it’s a skill that would also prove counterproductive to his work.

Instead, his facility enlists massive, super-loud “wailers” that deter birds. These speaker and amplifier systems look like the giant megaphone-bearing poles seen in high-security prisons. They use a series of outlandish, otherworldly sounds to repel wildlife. And they work.

“You can hear these things on a nice, clear summer night all across Butte,” Mariano says. He also employs “propane cannons” set on a timer. They fire all day, mimicking the gunfire of hunters. “Which the birds are scared of for obvious reasons,” Mark smiles.

Special occasions even call for the birds getting their own fireworks display. And this is just the tip of the waterfowl-deterring iceberg. It’s an Outsider’s dream job, to be sure, and one Mark wouldn’t trade for the world.