Wildlife officials said they are investigating how more pelicans are ending up dead on local beaches.
According to Toni O'Neil, director of the Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary in Hubert, rescuers are finding several dead pelicans per day, mostly at Surf City and Topsail Beach.
"We had been getting reports of maybe one or two a week about three weeks ago, and then the numbers have started up in the past two weeks where we get calls about two to three a day," said O’Neil.
O'Neal said rescuers have not been able to save any of the birds they've found.
"The wing bone is just horribly, horribly smashed and these birds are found just out on the beach and dunes," said O’Neil.
Since 2010, hundreds of the federally-protected birds have washed up dead or injured on Eastern Carolina shores. Wildlife investigators said they don't know what's causing the pelicans' deaths, but evidence suggests their killings are intentional.
Rosalind Porter has been volunteering at Possum Acres Wildlife Sanctuary for seven years. She said when rescuers get a report about a pelican, she would collect the bird, but it's never easy.
"It’s just, it's sad to see, but you know, you're doing the best thing you can to help the bird even if it has to be put down," said Porter.
She said when the pelicans are brought to the facility, all rescuers can do is euthanize them, due to the extent of their injuries.
According to the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, intentionally harming a pelican is state and federal offense that may lead to a fine or even jail time. They are offering a reward of almost $10,000 for information, and can be reached at 919-833-1923.