Biologists in Massachusetts recently announced that over the last six weeks, five adult gray seals were found shot on Cape Cod beaches.
Biologists from the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Marine Mammal Rescue and Research team discovered the cases in the course of standard stranding response efforts.
Although it is not uncommon for grey seals to become stranded on Massachusetts beaches during this time of year, scientists say that the presence of noticeable external wounds make these cases different.
In two of the five instances, trained staff members recognized external wounds on the seals as gunshot wounds. As a result, all seal strandings are being more closely examined for evidence of human interactions, including gunshots.
CT scans and subsequent dissection, fragments and all other ballistic evidence is currently being analyzed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) Special Agents.
All five seals appear to have died as result of the gunshot wounds.
Gray seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This federal law prohibits the harassment and killing of all marine mammals and violations can result in both civil and criminal penalties.
“These animals are suffering greatly. We are taking these crimes very seriously and are strongly encouraging anyone with information to call,” said Special Agent Todd Nickerson of NOAA OLE.
If you see a live or dead stranded marine mammal, please report it to the IFAW stranding hotline at 508-743-9548. If you have any information regarding the above cases, please contact Special Agent Nickerson at 508-990-8752.
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Image Credit: Flickr - spencer77
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