FUQUAY-VARINA, N.C. — Staff with the rescue group, the American Wildlife Refuge, said they found nearly 50 dead vultures in Fuquay-Varina near a water tower off South Main Street.

The group’s director of animal care, Steve Stone, works to rescue and rehabilitate birds of prey and said vultures are critical parts of local wildlife.

“While it’s true that they do eat dead stuff, they’re not a predictor,” Stone said. “That’s “20,000 pounds of rotted stuff every year that’s not being eaten because these birds died.”

Stone received a call about dead vultures in Fuquay-Varina this week. When he arrived, he said he found dozens on the ground, both old and new remains.

“So this is not just stuff that’s been the past couple of weeks, this is stuff that’s been there a long time,” Stone said.

The cause of death is still unknown. Still, the report comes during a time that avian flu threatens flocks statewide, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture.  

But Stone said he’s not ruling out human intervention, especially after rescuing vultures from that same neighborhood in Fuquay-Varina in the past.

“We got some birds that weren’t dead yet and we were able to treat them as if they were poisoned and they survived,” Stone said.

The town said they use effigies, or hanging taxidermized birds, at water towers to scare vultures off and protect utility lines.

“Roosting vultures can damage tanks’ protective coatings, create maintenance issues such as covering walkways with fecal matter, and are a nuisance to some area residences,” Susan Weis, the town’s communication director, said.  “Taxidermic effigies are produced from birds that have died naturally and are hung in an area to deter a specific species from congregating. Taxidermic effigies are extremely effective at deterring black vultures from using an area if displayed properly.”

But Stone worries the current efforts to keep the birds away aren’t working as intended.

“It doesn’t really have that effect because they’re used to death,” Stone said.

It is illegal to kill vultures as they’re federally protected.

Stone said he’s reported the deaths to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service.