CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WTVR)- Someone in Chesterfield is killing vultures.
Dead birds have been found in neighborhoods off Robious Road across a three-mile radius. Some have been taken to the Richmond Wildlife Center.
That's where vet assistant Melissa Stanley identified the cause of death, which she points out is a federal crime.
The birds’ normal perching place is a water tower off Corner Rock Road in Midlothian. “There's always a bunch there," said Barbara Duval, who lives nearby.
Both turkey vultures and black vultures circle and wait to feast on animals that have met their demise. "Kind of creepy to look at, but they eat the squirrels that are hit by cars," said Duval.
But at least three vultures have recently been found dead in the area. Dead, because wildlife experts believe someone shot them out of the sky. And that in itself is dangerous.
"When you are shooting into the air at birds in a well-populated area, if you miss your target, you’re endangering human lives," said Stanley.
On top of that, wildlife police say you're committing a federal crime shooting a bird --any bird, including vultures – because it’s a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
"You're not allowed to kill a bird without a permit," said Dan Rolince, agent in charge at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. He says no one in the Robious area has that permit. "The maximum punishment is a $15,000 fine and up to six months in prison," he said.
For now the evidence is contained in small vials held at the Richmond Wildlife Center off Winterfield Road. Inside the vials are shotgun pellets pulled from the carcasses of the birds.
"Both black and turkey vultures serve a purpose when it comes to public health,” said Stanley. "There's disease in those carcasses and these vultures are helping prevent disease. Because if flies get to them first, that's how disease is transmitted to humans and pets."
Something you should think about when you see the unattractive birds feasting on the side of the road
If you know who is shooting the birds, wildlife police say call the Game and Inland Fisheries wildlife crime line. It's manned 24/7 at 1-800-237-5712.