updated 12/15/2010 6:32:09 PM ET 2010-12-15T23:32:09

Officials in a North Carolina beach town are trying to find out who is killing dozens of pelicans that have washed ashore shot, bludgeoned and decapitated.

Since the beginning of November, volunteers, wildlife officers and town workers in North Topsail Beach have documented more than 60 pelican deaths that were apparently caused by human beings.

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On Wednesday, volunteers found a bird with its head chopped off, the fourth such decapitation since the weekend.

Others have apparently been bludgeoned with some blunt instrument, shattering bones. At least one bird bore wounds from shotgun pellets.

Pelicans are protected by federal and state laws, according to Onslow County Wildlife Officer Scott Strickland, who is one of several officials investigating.

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