Local News

Beach officials: Pelicans' deaths deliberate

Posted November 22, 2010 2:01 p.m. EST
Updated November 22, 2010 7:51 p.m. EST

— More than two dozen pelicans found on North Topsail Beach within the past two weeks appeared to have been deliberately injured or killed, town officials said Monday.

Six pelicans were found dead on North Topsail Beach Saturday, said Toni O'Neil, director of Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary, an Onslow County nonprofit that specializes in waterfowl rehabilitation.

One pelican's pouch was slit, and the others had wounds from pellet gunshots. Two had the ends of their wings smashed in.

A week earlier, two injured pelicans were found less than a mile apart on North Topsail Beach. Their wings had been cut, severing the tendons and muscles they use to fly.

O'Neil said that kind of injury can't be healed, so the pelicans had to be euthanized.

Town officials said the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission believes the pelicans are being killed in international waters, town officials said.

The commission has requested assistance from several agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard to help with the investigation.

Pelicans are protected by federal law, which stipulates penalties for injuring them.

"My heart's broken. It's just so sad," said Deborah Woody, of Possumwood Acres.

One Topsail resident thinks diving into water too shallow caused the injuries. Another thinks it is young people playing a prank.

Pelicans with similar injuries were found along North Topsail Beach last year, but the injuries ceased after an investigation began, she said.

O'Neil urged anyone who sees injured pelicans to report them so they can be helped to heal or put down humanely.

"There's got to be somebody out there that knows this is happening. Report them, let us know," Woody said.