Gray seals under fire on Cape Cod
Given the large population of gray seals in this area, it is not uncommon to find stranded animals along the shore; however, these cases presented differently. In two instances, trained staff members recognized external wounds on the seals as gun shot wounds. As a result, all seal strandings are being more closely examined for evidence of human interactions, including gunshots.
“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.
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.
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.