RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Since the 1970s, American Wildlife Refuge has been helping injured birds of prey, and using educational birds to teach people about the importance of such animals.

North Carolina is home to nearly 500 different species of birds, but with more people moving into our state, more of those birds are inevitably getting hurt.

That’s where the American Wildlife Refuge comes in.

“We basically take care of hurt animals that were hurt by mankind in some way shape or form, and get them back in the wild where they belong,” explained Steven Stone, the executive director of American Wildlife Refuge.

Those animals are birds of prey like owls, hawks, and even what we know as vultures.

Stone explained that 90 percent of the birds they take in are hit by cars as they swoop down to eat the rodents that are eating the trash we throw out of cars.

“Why would a bird fly this low to the ground? Only because it’s going to the ground right beside the street,” Stone said. “So littering is actually causing the birds to be hit.”

Taking care of the injured birds isn’t cheap: in one year the group spends more than $23,000 on food alone. That doesn’t include vet care or facility upkeep, both of which are vital to their operation.

“The whole idea that we’re hoping for is that these birds have a safe place to get better and we can release,” Stone explains.

In the wild, healthy owls can eat dozens of mice a week, and vultures clean up thousands of pounds of rotten meat that you don’t want near your home.

Stone said this is just one reason why American Wildlife Refuge works hard at what they do.

“We can’t fix everything, but we try to fix the one thing, the birds of prey. That’s the one little part we’re trying to do.”

In addition to helping pay for the cost of food, the money CBS 17 and our partner Michael & Son raised for American Wildlife Refuge will be paired with a grant to help build a new facility so they can help even more birds of prey.

The birds featured in this story, Speedy, Click Clack, and Snoopy, are all registered education birds. To learn more about American Wildlife Refuge, their educational programs, and how you can help, visit their website here.