Five dead adult gray seals found over a six-week period on the beaches of Cape Cod appear to have been shot.
The animals were discovered by biologists from the International Fund for Animal Welfare's (IFAW) Marine Mammal Rescue and Research team during what the organization calls “standard stranding response efforts.”
Since the gray seal population is quite high in this area it is not “uncommon” for the team to locate stranded animals. But it became readily apparent the death of the seals in question was anything but natural when trained staff members recognized gunshot wounds in two of the marine mammals.
And science is backing up the initial field conclusion, according to IFAW:
While each case is examined on scene for forensic evidence, the most accurate evidence has come from CT scans and subsequent dissection and removal of the fragments. All 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
"Although we cannot discuss the details of the cases, the bottom line is that the perpetrators are breaking the law and animals are suffering and dying as a result," said Katie Moore, manager of the IFAW team.
Those responsible for the shootings can face civil and criminal charges as gray seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Due to the findings, all seal strandings will now be investigated for the possibility of human interaction.