About 20 dead pelicans and gannets found on NC beach

CASWELL BEACH, N.C. (WECT) — The Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter tagged and removed about 20 dead birds from Caswell Beach and Oak Island Monday afternoon.

CLICK TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS. WARNING: Some images are graphic

Janet Kurz, a volunteer at the shelter, went to Caswell Beach to clean up the scene.

“I don’t like seeing any dead birds but when you see nine at one time it kind of smacks you in the face that there is something that isn’t right,” said Kurz.

Kurz said she walked along the beach and found nine birds, a combination of pelicans and gannets. Kurz took pictures of each one and noticed a familiar trend.

“Seven had wing injuries, all identical in the same place same kind of injury,” said Kurz. She recognized the injury because it’s the same one several of the birds recovering at the shelter.

Clinic Director Mary Ellen Rogers has a theory to explain these trends.

It begins with the search for food and that puts some of the birds in precarious situations.

“Gannets dive into gill nets to get the food that’s in there and they can drown they have to get up and get air,” said Rogers. “If they are stuck in a net they are not going to be able to make it.”

The struggle to free themselves of the net can cause the wing injuries. Rogers said her shelter ambassador in Oak Island found a similar scene, including two dead pelicans with frostbite.

“They were getting food someplace and if they don’t go south and they get food somewhere, they are going to get frostbite because it’s too cold for them to be here,” said Rogers.

Rogers and her staff hope legislators can make a difference for these birds. Rogers said North Carolina is the only state that lets shrimp boats trawl inshore and that leads to easy access to food for birds that should be migrating south.

The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission will meet in Wilmington next Wednesday to discuss a petition to change the shrimping regulations. The petition would make all coastal fishing areas within three miles from the shore designated nursery areas. Stay with WECT as we continue coverage of the NCMFC meeting.

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